Joe McNally has called on the officials for Saturday’s rematch between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall to be wary of the risk of overcompensating as a consequence of the controversy that followed their first fight.

The long-term rivals fight again in a non-title contest at Leeds’ First Direct Arena – considered more neutral territory – over two years after the scorecards from their first fight came to be recognised as among the most controversial of the modern era.

On that night at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Edinburgh’s Taylor – despite being knocked down in the eighth round and having a point deducted in the 11th for punching after the bell – was scored the winner via scores of 114-111, 113-112 and 112-113 at the conclusion of a fight in which he was widely seen as having been outboxed. Catterall – the underdog against the then-reigning undisputed super-lightweight champion – also had a point deducted, for holding in the 10th, but was considered so unfortunate not to be awarded victory that it became inevitable that they would fight again.

As a consequence of scoring the fight 114-111 in Taylor’s favour, Ian John-Lewis was summoned by the British Boxing Board of Control to explain why. They in turn downgraded him from their elite A Star class group of referees to A class; the governing body also asked the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO to keep Catterall as mandatory challenger for their titles, but Taylor gradually vacated the first three and lost the fourth to Teofimo Lopez in New York in June 2023.

It was in the aftermath of perhaps his poorest performance as a professional that the 33-year-old Taylor – undefeated until his encounter with Lopez – replaced Ben Davison as his trainer with McNally. Saturday’s fight represents their second together – McNally’s influence has contributed to Taylor remaining at super lightweight after considering moving up – but the trainer is wary of the risk of the officials overseeing the high-profile occasion feeling under pressure to be perceived to be fair to Taylor’s rival. 

“That’s obviously a fear,” he said. “I don’t want Josh to really leave it in the hands of the judges – I want him to be super dominant, in an ideal world. But we have got to put the uttermost faith in the British Boxing [Board of Control] applying top quality judges. 

“We’ve got [judges] Kieran McCann, Mark Bates and Lee Every. Kevin Parker [is the referee]. I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m sure they wouldn’t have worked too many championship fights at this level either – same as the referee – so I think we’ve got a young panel across the board, and I hope the board has a deep conversation with them to eliminate the first fight. ‘Forget the controversy; forget this; just see the fight as you see it against two neutral, equal operators and just let it play out.’ 

“I just hope there isn’t any other controversy. If Jack wins, he wins fairly. If Josh wins, he wins fairly. Kudos; take your hat off; tip it to the guy, and you push on to what you’re gonna do next. There always is that fear, but it is what it is.

“I hope Josh gets to showcase his skill asset, and puts in a vintage performance. Likewise Jack – I hope he gets to show his skill set too, so the fight has got a good ebb and flow to it; back and forth; is good for the fans. The last thing I want is a repeat of the first one where there’s a lot of holding; clinching; hitting after the bell; low blows; the back of the head and stuff, and the referee getting too involved in the fight.

“This is a DAZN-Matchroom fight, and Josh Taylor being a Top Rank fighter – DAZN have paid him a lot of money to take the fight, and they paid that because DAZN and Matchroom had no other [big British fights] top of the bill this year, or moving forward. There’s nothing in the pipeline. 

“I vented it to Top Rank, but it’s the flip-side of the coin – I don’t really wanna dismiss Kevin Parker as a referee, because he might be a really good referee. But for these occasions you should have an experienced one, and I think Top Rank spoke to the Board, and they’ve got every confidence in the officials that they’ve appointed for the job. So let’s see how it plays out.

“My biggest fear is I think we’ve got an under-qualified referee for the fight. His biggest fight today is [Liam] Smith-[Chris] Eubank II [when McNally worked Smith’s corner], and also Ishmael Davis v Troy [Williamson]. I do think we needed an experienced referee to handle the occasion and situation, but that’s the British Boxing Board [of Control]. That’s their problem. I just hope that the fight – people get to showcase their skills and talent, and may the best man win.”

Saturday’s fight will be the 1,018th of Parker’s career, but there have perhaps been none of the profile of Taylor-Catterall II. Their first fight was refereed by Marcus McDonnell; McNally and his assistant trainer Declan O’Rourke were present, and McNally doesn’t agree with the majority who believe that Catterall, 30, deserved victory.

“I was chatting to Declan next to me right the way through the fight and never really had eyes on the fight – I wasn’t the best of spectators that night,” said McNally, of Liverpool. “I followed the crowd a little bit. I was under the pretence that Josh Taylor being Josh Taylor should have too much in his arsenal for Jack. When Jack dropped him there was a big silence in the arena, and then Josh rallied and come back. 

“But it was like, ‘Oh, this is close’, and listening to a lot of people, Jack really won the fight. I never went back and watched it until I started collaborating with Josh and went back and really studied the fight, and it’s a fight of what you really fancy. 

“To win that calibre of fight you cannot sit back on the back foot and pot shot with one shot. You’ve gotta rip the title away from the champion and really force the action. I don’t think Jack executed that and that’s what got Josh the victory.”

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