The Friday Faceup

Undisputed world champion Josh Taylor shows what’s up for grabs.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig/BOXXER

The big fights keep coming.

A sensational weekend of boxing awaits with the overdue return of undisputed world junior-welterweight (140lb/10st) champion Josh Taylor against undefeated Jack Catterall in Glasgow, Scotland on Saturday night (26 February). It’s a complete sellout at the atmospheric OVO Hydro Arena and live and exclusive on Sky Sports in the UK and ESPN+ in the United States.

This will be followed Sunday night from the wind battered O2 Arena London with the WBO world cruiserweight (200lbs/14st, 4lbs) fight between champion Lawrence Okolie and challenger Michal Ciesak being shown live on the DAZN streaming platform.

Both are excellent match ups promoted by BOXXER/Top Rank and Matchroom respectively. The fans are the winners, with the latter opting to promote on the Sunday rather than go head to head with BOXXER. Hopefully this will become a growing trend.

The Taylor-Catterall match marks the return of big time boxing to Scotland with the first defence of an undisputed world title by a domestic fighter since Benny Lynch in the 1930’s.

Taylor, the Prestonpans, Edinburgh champion has cleaned up the ten stoners over the last three years defeating six fighters with a pre-fight combined record of 136 wins and 1 loss. This illustrates the elite company he’s mixed in, capped by beating Jose Ramirez in the US last year to win the WBC world title and unify the belts.

At 31, the Scottish southpaw has looked the ‘real deal’ having compiled an 18-0 (13 KO’s) record and is currently ranked #5 pound-for-pound by the esteemed Ring magazine. The ‘Tartan Tornado’ aspires to, and has shown ability to date to become a future hall of fame champion.

Catterall by contrast, aged 28, and from Chorley, Lancashire has made steady progress through the ranks to secure a mandatory position to challenge for the title. He boasts a 26-0 (13 KO’s) record and is an excellent boxer.

Interest on the night is further fueled by this being a classic Scotland v England match and the atmosphere in the Hydro is sure to be electric, a throwback to former WBC world lightweight champion Jim Watt’s title fights in the early 1980’s and those of undisputed champion Ken Buchanan a decade earlier.

In terms of a result, there are levels in boxing and the home fighter has shown he’s a class above Catterall at this juncture. With that expectation though comes pressure and that will all be on Taylor on the night. Fighting in front of his home crowd for the first time since 2019 on a massive promotion and one in which everyone expects him to win convincingly.

The Undisputed sees this as a much more competitive contest than it may immediately look, any boxer who boasts an undefeated record has to be respected. Catterall is technically sound and on the up, but when the dust finally settles we see the champion retaining his title by a convincing points decision.

In London, Sunday night, local Olympian Lawrence ‘Sauce’ Okolie (16-0, 13 KO’s) will be making the second defence of his WBO world cruiserweight title and has looked impressive to date. In Michal Cieslak (21-1, 15 KO’s) he faces a solid 32 year old contender who’s fallen just short in his previous attempt to win the WBC title. He’s as tough as they come and the Londoner will do well to stop him.

Okolie (29) with his long and rangey jab should though find a way to prevail and can be explosive when holding his ground. At 6ft,5 he’s big for a cruiserweight and known to be on the cusp of moving up to the heavyweights. We see him winning by a late stoppage.

Both main events in both promotions should provide excellent entertainment and will give us a much better understanding of the long term futures of the main protagonists. It caps an excellent month of UK contests with big live crowds.

Enjoy your fight weekend.

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