The manner in which Sky Sports covered a most controversial decision in Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall is to be admired, writes George Gigney
Sometimes, there are no words. Sometimes, boxing manages something to produce something so unsettling, so inherently wrong, that there are no words to properly describe how you feel. What happened in Glasgow on Saturday night was one such occurrence. Josh Taylor – an elite fighter boxing in front of a home crowd – was awarded a diabolical decision win over Jack Catterall.
Of course, the issue pales in comparison to what is happening in Ukraine, and the continued threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, but boxing – like any sport – is supposed to be a form of escape. It’s an arena in which two fighters enter and the better one on the night gets their hand raised. When that ceases to be the case, what’s the point in watching?
The point of this column is not to analyse the fight or the scorecards, but rather the broadcast of the show. In that metric, Sky Sports excelled. Those on camera found the words that so few of us could.
Throughout the fight, Sky’s commentary team called the action fairly and accurately, praising the excellent work of Catterall but also highlighting Taylor’s moments of success. They did perhaps bring up the theory that Taylor was weight-drained a few too many times, rather than credit Catterall with preventing the Scotsman from boxing to his usual standard.
When the scorecards were read out and Taylor’s hand was raised, the shock from the Sky team was palpable. None of their unofficial scorecards had Taylor even close to winning the fight.
Catterall immediately left the ring and walked back to his dressing room – and who can blame him. Taylor was made available for a post-fight interview with Sky’s Andy Scott, who did an excellent job of asking the right questions at the right time.
He remained respectful of Taylor but still put it to him that most – if not all – observers felt he had decisively lost the fight. He even got Taylor to admit that this is likely to be his last fight at super-lightweight.
While Catterall kept himself behind closed doors, his trainer Jamie Moore admirably stepped up to be briefly interviewed by Sky’s punditry team. Visibly holding back a wave of emotion, he succinctly summed things up.
“It’s difficult to put into words. You’re talking about a kid that’s worked all his life to wait for that moment,” he said.
“He performs like that, beats the champion in his own backyard, and gets robbed. My son is 16, just getting into boxing. He will [now] be thinking, ‘why should I?’”
That final question is one countless boxing fans, fighters and trainers will be asking themselves in the aftermath. What’s the point in watching or participating in the sport when it’s so clearly broken?
Sky quite rightfully did not shy away from the controversy surrounding the decision, with the likes of Johnny Nelson and Natasha Jonas expressing their frustration at the result. They should also be commended for making it clear that Taylor should bear no blame here – too often fighters on the right side of a controversial decision receive the brunt of the backlash, when it should be the officials who are scrutinised.
Aside from Catterall and his team, it was promoter Ben Shalom who was most noticeably riled by the scorecards. Speaking with Adam Smith, he admitted to being embarrassed as the promoter linked to such an injustice.
He was also refreshingly honest with his emotions when he said, “I’m not just embarrassed, I’m angry.” He called for an inquest into the judges’ scoring and he is spot on – something must be done.
We were also treated to some Sunday night boxing courtesy of DAZN. The card itself was decent, but it felt like a treat to have live boxing on both Saturday and Sunday night. Plus, the DAZN card started earlier than usual and was wrapped up just after 10pm.
Mairis Briedis was on hand to cover Lawrence Okolie’s fight, but instead dressed himself up as Mario in another bid to lure YouTuber Jake Paul into a fight. On the one hand, it’s funny to see a fighter not take himself too seriously, but on the other it would’ve been much better for Briedis to be hunting down a fight with Okolie so creatively.
It was also finally confirmed that Canelo Alvarez will once again partner with DAZN for his next two fights – and that they’ll be on pay-per-view. His clash with Dmitry Bivol in May will come at an extra cost for viewers in the US and Mexico, while those in other territories – including the UK – will have the fight included in the monthly subscription.
This news was met with a lot of criticism from fans who feel somewhat betrayed by the subscription service due to previous claims that it would never stage PPV fights. This, however, was inevitable.
PPV isn’t dead and it never was – it will likely remain a necessity in boxing forever, simply because it’s the only feasible way to make the biggest fights and generate the purses they demand.
Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have long held the respect of the boxing world, but their actions in their home country of Ukraine have shown the staggering depths of their bravery. Vitali, the mayor of Kyiv, was interviewed by ITV and said he had “no choice” but to take up arms and defend his country against the Russian invasion.
Wladimir has been right alongside him and both are putting themselves at extreme risk to protect Ukraine. Oleksandr Usyk also travelled back to Ukraine from the UK, where he was conducting business, and Vasyl Lomachenko also returned home to fight.
All four men have earned large sums from boxing and could afford to be anywhere else in the world, but they’ve chosen to remain in their homeland and help push back against Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
They are standing for something far, far bigger than boxing and our thoughts are with them and the whole of Ukraine.