Pick It: Josh Taylor-Jack Catterall II

When to Watch: Saturday, May 25. 

How to watch: ESPN+, 2 p.m. Eastern Time / 7 p.m. BST

Why to Watch: The stakes aren’t what they were when these men first fought, back when Taylor was the undisputed champion of the junior welterweight division and Catterall was the challenger whom many felt was ripped off on the scorecards, deprived of becoming the new champ.

This rematch still matters to them. 

Catterall believes he won and thinks he can do it again, and that this time he’ll get the credit for doing so. 

Taylor says he wasn’t at his best that night — more focused on potential big fights at welterweight than on the person in front of him — but that he was the rightful winner anyway, and that there won’t be any controversy when his hands are raised this time around. He also says he’s completely healed from injuries that postponed this fight.

Taylor had picked up all four world titles over the course of a two-year span from 2019 to 2021. He defeated Ivan Baranchyk for the IBF belt as part of the World Boxing Super Series 140-pound tournament, then edged Regis Prograis in the tournament finale to add the WBA belt. In May 2021, Taylor met another unified titleholder, Jose Ramirez, and took a close unanimous decision to become undisputed.

Taylor-Catterall 1 took place in February 2022. The official judges saw it a close split decision, two of them scoring it 114-111 and 113-112 for Taylor, the third judge dissenting with a 113-112 tally in favor of Catterall. The unofficial judges vehemently disagreed.

Taylor subsequently vacated three of his four sanctioning body belts rather than take on the mandatory challengers. Instead, he was focused on facing Catterall again. 

The rematch didn’t happen immediately, though, and instead Taylor went on to defend the WBO belt — and recognition as lineal champion — against Teofimo Lopez in June 2023. Lopez won a clear unanimous decision, dropping the 33-year-old from Edinburgh, Scotland, to 19-1 (13 KOs).

Catterall, a 30-year-old from Lancashire, England, has picked up two victories since the Taylor fight and moved to 28-1 (13 KOs). He outpointed Darragh Foley in May 2023 and then sent Jorge Linares off into retirement after Catterall picked up a decision in their October fight.

Catterall and his team were considering an elimination bout against contender Richardson Hitchins. Instead, the purse bid for that fight was called off. Catterall went with the Taylor rematch while Hitchins went on to fight Gustavo Lemos.

While the winner of this fight won’t have a world title, they will move forward in a crowded and talented division. That means the stakes of Taylor-Catterall 2 aren’t just about what happened in the past — but about what this means for their futures.

More Fights to Watch

Wednesday, May 22: Batyrzhan Jukembayev vs. Ivan Redkach (ProBoxTV.com, 8 p.m. Eastern Time)

(Note: BoxingScene.com is owned by ProBox.) 

Years ago, Jukembayev and Redkach were each on the verge of becoming contenders — Jukembayev at junior welterweight and Redkach at lightweight — before they ran into other up-and-comers who proved to be better.

Jukembayev was stopped after eight rounds with Subriel Matias in May 2021. Matias has since gone on to win a world title. Jukembayev, meanwhile, has won four straight since to improve to 22-1 (16 KOs). The 33-year-old originally hails from Kazakhstan but now calls Montreal home. His last two outings were a split decision over Hugo Roldan and a unanimous decision over Mohamed Mimoune.

Redkach is farther removed from his better days. His first defeat came in 2015, a fourth-round TKO at the hands of Dejan Zlaticanin, who went on to win a world title at lightweight. More blemishes would follow: a decision loss to Tevin Farmer in 2016, a split decision loss to Argenis Mendez in 2017, and a fourth-round stoppage loss to John Molina Jr. in 2017. 

By 2019, Redkach was competing at welterweight, where he stopped Devon Alexander (who also fights this week!) in 2019 but then lost a decision to Danny Garcia in 2020, a fight in which Redkach bit Garcia and was subsequently suspended. 

Things got even lower in 2021 in a fight between Redkach and Regis Prograis. Redkach went down from a body shot but played it off like he got hit below the belt. Redkach said he couldn’t continue and left the ring in a stretcher. What was first ruled a technical decision win for Prograis was later changed to a TKO. Redkach spent 27 months away before returning last July, taking out a designated opponent. That brought the 38-year-old, who’s originally from Ukraine but now fights out of Los Angeles, to 24-6-1 (19 KOs).

Thursday, May 23: Jermaine Franklin vs. Devin Vargas (DAZN, 7 p.m. Eastern Time)

This clash between former heavyweight prospects is the main event of a show at the Wayne State Fieldhouse in Detroit.

Franklin is a 30-year-old from a little farther upstate in Saginaw, Michigan, hence his “989 Assassin” nickname in recognition of the area code. He is 22-2 (14 KOs). Those defeats came back-to-back when Franklin stepped up, a majority decision against Dillian Whyte in November 2022 and a unanimous decision against Anthony Joshua in April 2023. Franklin picked up a wide win in July over previously unbeaten Isaac Munoz Gutierrez.

Vargas, 42, is a rarity in boxing these days — a pro fighter older than me. He competed in the 2004 Olympics, suffered his first pro loss against Kevin Johnson in 2009, and has mostly served as fodder since then, often for foes with recognizable names. Vargas is 22-10 (9 KOs) and has lost four in a row.

The undercard features some unbeaten prospects.

Friday, May 24: Lukasz Rozanki vs. Lawrence Okolie (Peacock in the United States, Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, start time TBA)

In May 2023, Okolie’s cruiserweight title reign came to an end after two years and three successful defenses, losing a majority decision to Chris Billam-Smith. That brought Okolie, a 31-year-old from London, to 19-1 (14 KOs). This will be his first fight back since, and his first time competing in the WBC’s bridgerweight division, which has a weight limit of 224 pounds. 

The WBC’s titleholder is Rozanski, a 38-year-old from Poland who will be fighting in front of his hometown crowd in Rzeszow. Rozanski won the belt in April 2023, dropping Alen Babic halfway into the first round and then continuing to attack until the referee stepped in. That brought Rozanski to 15-0 (14 KOs). 

This will be his first fight since then. He also had an extended layoff before then — his previous fight had been in May 2021, when he put Artur Szpilka away in about two-and-a-half minutes. That means Rozanski has fought less than two rounds combined in the past three years.

Friday, May 24: Devon Alexander vs. Vlad Panin (UFC Fight Pass, 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time)

Alexander, the long-faded former junior welterweight and welterweight titleholder, headlines this show at the River Cree Resort and Casino outside of Edmonton, Alberta.

Alexander, a 37-year-old from St. Louis, hasn’t won a fight since 2017 when he outpointed Walter Castillo, and he has only won two matches in the past 10 years. Alexander has only fought intermittently in recent times, going 26 months between a knockout loss to Ivan Redkach in 2019 and a decision loss to Luke Santamaria in 2021. Then there were 20 months between that Santamaria defeat in 2021 and a third-round TKO loss to Gabriel Maestre in April 2023. That brought Alexander to 27-8-1 (14 KOs).

This time, Alexander returns from a 13-month layoff for what will either be a junior middleweight (per BoxRec) or a middleweight fight (per the promotional poster) against Panin.

Panin is a 28-year-old originally from Belarus and now fighting out of Los Angeles. He is 18-1 (10 KOs).

Saturday, May 25: Christian Mbilli vs. Mark Heffron (ESPN+, 7 p.m. Eastern Time)

Mbilli is an undefeated super middleweight prospect at 26-0 (22 KOs) and appears to be ready for the upper tiers of 168-pounders. He’s reportedly just agreed to face divisional measuring stick Sergiy Derevyanchenko in August. But for now, he’s staying busy against the likes of Heffron.

Mbilli is a 29-year-old who was born in Cameroon, lives in France, and fights out of Quebec. He’s coming off a 2023 in which he outpointed Carlos Gongora, put away Demond Nicholson in four rounds, and finished Rohan Murdock in six.

Heffron, a 32-year-old from Oldham in the United Kingdom, is 30-3-1 (24 KOs). He lost to Liam Williams at middleweight in 2018 (TKO10), fought to a draw with Denzel Bentley in 2020 but lost in their rematch months later (TKO4) due to a swollen eye. Heffron moved up to super middleweight and soon picked up a good win by stopping Lennox Clarke in 2022, only to suffer a big setback last September when he was dropped and stopped by Jack Cullen (TKO3). He bounced back this February with a quick win over a designated opponent.

Given that Heffron’s three losses have all come before the bell, Mbilli would like to make that four.

The undercard features a number of prospects, including once-beaten Arslanbek Makhmudov, 18-1 (17 KOs), who’s coming off a fourth-round loss to Agit Kabayel. Makhmudov will face late replacement opponent Miljan Rovcanin, 27-3 (18 KOs), who’s rattled off three straight wins since a KO2 loss to Jared Anderson in 2022.

Also on the show: Light heavyweight prospect Albert Ramirez, 18-0 (15 KOs), faces Adam Deines, 23-2-1 (14 KOs), whose last loss came against Artur Beterbiev in 2021.

Saturday, May 25: Bader Al-Dherat vs. Orlando Mosquera (DAZN, noon Eastern Time)

Al-Dherat is an unbeaten 23-year-old lightweight prospect, 10-0 (8 KOs), who was born in Jordan and now lives in Dubai. This fight will headline in Abu Dhabi. Mosquera, a 25-year-old from Panama, is 13-2-1 (2 KOs).

Follow David Greisman on Twitter @FightingWords2. His book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” is available on Amazon.

Read the full article here