Josh Taylor Abandons Nice-Guy Image And Turns Heel For Jack Catterall Rematch

February 21, 2024
2 months
Josh Taylor

There has been a curious and dramatic change to Josh Taylor’s entire public personality ahead of his rematch with Jack Catterall on April 27.

The former undisputed super-lightweight champion had always been the shy and quiet type, his lack of superstar personality arguably holding him back from getting the credit and attention he deserved for his impressive achievements inside the ring.

At the height of his powers, Taylor’s skills should have been enough to earn him global box-office status and the riches that come with that. Except boxing doesn’t work like that. The sport demands its superstars to have the personalities to match; whether fans love or hate them, it stirs emotions that directly lead to interest in fights and as a consequence, drives pay-per-view and ticket purchases, and ultimately, revenue.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. knew this better than anyone. The greatest self-promoter in boxing history, Mayweather was aware that a huge section of fans despised him and watched his fights in the hope he would lose. He didn’t care, either way, he got paid – and got paid eye-watering amounts (and he never lost).

In contrast, Taylor has never been a great self-promoter, it’s just not part of his character. It wasn’t until his unified world title fight against Regis Prograis in October 2019 – four years into his career – that the boxing world outside of his native Scotland started to take notice. Even then, much of the heavy lifting to promote the fight was done by the more dynamic Prograis.

It was a similar story for Taylor’s undisputed showdown with Jose Carlos Ramirez in May 2021. Granted, he was unfortunate that the greatest night of his career occurred during the pandemic and therefore in front of a limited crowd, but he failed to use that stunning performance to catapult himself to superstar status.

Since then, there have been the controversial split decision victory over Catterall – the entire reason for April’s rematch – and most recently the defeat to Teofimo Lopez Jr. in June last year.

Go back and watch Taylor’s demeanor before each of these major bouts and his personality is the same each time; quiet and reserved, an absence of brashness. Capable of trading barbs, of course, but in almost an introverted way. He was at his most animated ahead of his showdown with Prograis, but even then, no one could accuse Taylor of crossing a line or any overt displays of arrogance.

The opposite could not be truer in the build-up to his rematch with Catterall. Gone is the uncomfortable smile and bland answers to media questions, to be replaced by a constant smirk and frequent profanity. Insults have been flung in both directions, but they have been particularly nasty from Taylor to the point where broadcaster DAZN has warned him about his conduct.

During their face-off at the second press conference in Manchester this week, a microphone picked up on Taylor calling Catterall a “f*****g r****d”, capping a strange appearance from the Scot which started with him walking on stage and presenting his opponent with crayons and a coloring book in a failed attempt to be funny.

“DAZN does not condone the use of discriminatory language, and will remind Josh Taylor of his responsibilities,” the broadcaster said.

Both press conferences, in Edinburgh and Manchester, have ended with the fighters engaging in a shoving match and almost coming to blows.

It was expected for there to be tension and bad blood between Taylor and Catterall, two years after their first fight, but this heel turn doesn’t suit Taylor. And it makes for particularly uncomfortable viewing when he fails to acknowledge the controversy of their first fight. Even if he genuinely believes he won, he must still be aware of the wider opinion, and his whole attitude towards it has not sat well with many fight fans.

For a fighter who spent the height of his career not gaining the popularity he arguably deserved, it’s ironic that a dramatic U-turn away from his nice-guy image is actually turning many fans away.