HAD Dick Turpin, Ronnie Biggs and the Northern Bank raiders been spotted skidaddling out of the same Scottish post office in masked cahoots at the weekend, their joint-robbery couldn’t have been any greater than the one shipped by title challenger Jack ‘El Gato’ Catterall (inset) in Glasgow’s OVO Hydro on Saturday night.
That may sound like a two-fisted flurry of excitable hyperbole. Yet seeing is believing so it was surely hard for anyone with eyeballs hardwired to a brain to justify how reigning 140lb kingpin Josh Taylor was handed the split decision that allowed him to keep his ‘0’ and retain his glitzy trove of world super-lightweight straps.
The task Chorley southpaw Catterall would face in Taylor’s billed ‘Homecoming’ in front of a baying cauldron of steamin’ Bravehearts, audibly juiced to their sapping sporrans on Tennent’s and Irn-Bru snakebite, was as tough as it comes.
Despite an unblemished record, this was, from every angle, a huge leap in levels for the Jamie Moore-trained hopeful given Taylor’s own perfect back catalogue teemed with much bigger scalps and all belts to boot.
Scottish songstress Amy Macdonald spirited Edinburgh’s flavour into the flashy Glasgow strobes with a sultry Flower of Scotland blast that might have stirred Supergran from her Hebridean urn, ably assisted by a tryst of bagpipers and drummers sparring rightly for a summer Tattoo.
A montage of the sport’s all-time greats strutting their stuff on the big screen added an extra dollop of pizazz to the raucous mix.
Catterall looked unfazed by the ‘dram’-arama as Sky’s chief purrer Adam Smith and sidekick Matt Macklin drooled like a brace of thirsty St Bernards ahead of the “battle of the portsiders”.
In truth, it was about as good as it would get for ‘the Tartan Tornado’ – certainly through the opening eight rounds. From the first bell, the dead-eyed English invader disabled and disrupted the largely toothless attempts by Taylor to find any trademark rhythm and impose his front-footed stamp on his own beat.
A slippery, shoulder-rolling, shell-like defence backed up a pinging jab that rarely missed upstairs and down, while all too regular one-two combos gradually had the frustrated champ visibly bruised and an animated Ben Davison in his corner seeming a tad bemused.
At times it was awkward, ugly and then some. Busy ref Marcus McDonnell had due cause to check both at times for shades of judo, the challenger the more disruptive on that score despite crystal clear dominance in terms of blows landed.
Smith, Macklin and anyone who was asked left, right and centre were in little doubt as to the shock that was unfolding before them, Catterall’s reflexes, distance control and fists the sharper in spades.
When Taylor was dropped in the eighth with successive swift lefts to the temple, his wall was being inked.
“The Homecoming is turning into a nightmare here for Josh Taylor,” drawled Smith with slight understatement as Scottish hopes in the Hydro crumbled like a haggard post-Hogmanay haggis.
The champ strived to empty his tank, but it was too often haram-scarum with an unlikely-looking knockout seemingly the only face-saver in town.
A docked point for Catterall in the 10th surely meant little other than stirring Taylor for one last hurrah.
By the time the Scot himself had a point docked at the end of the 11th for a frustrated fly punch after the bell, the loosening grip on his belts had surely slipped beyond grasp.
The mood music was peak ominous.Trainer Davison knew as much. He told his man three times to be sure he needed a knockout in the last.
It didn’t happen. Catterall would keep Taylor’s final messy surge at arm’s length to seal the deal and live the dream by a distance and a bit.
“They’ll be celebrating long into the night,” insisted Smith as all nodded.
Five minutes later, two words rung out that stank the place out.
‘And still’ what? In need of a knockout?
Taylor’s camp jumped high for joy.
One ‘judge’ had scored the fight 114-111 to Taylor – the fighter who had been knocked down, was docked a point, landed almost 40 per cent fewer punches and lost at least six of the first eight rounds. It was at best a travesty of Key Stage One numeracy and vision.
Catterall stormed from the ring in a Mick Conlanesque middle-fingered blaze of disgust and tears.
An angry Jamie Moore was frothing like a shaken tin of Tennent’s.
“That’s just wrong,” squirmed Smith with muted shock before the bloodied ‘Tartan Tornado’ cooly told the world and convinced himself 12 times inside a three-minute post-fight interview that he had definitely won that fight.
And of course, he had.
Of course he had...