Josh Taylor believes that Saturday’s fight with Teofimo Lopez will prove “much tougher” than the rematch with Jack Catterall he was on course to take.
The WBO super lightweight champion on Saturday fights Brooklyn’s Lopez at the theatre at Madison Square Garden on the occasion of his first fight since he was fortunate to emerge from that with Catterall with his undefeated record intact.
Taylor, 32, was outboxed by Catterall in February 2022 and yet awarded the most controversial of split-decision victories. The rematch was agreed and then cancelled when Taylor suffered a torn plantar fascia; Taylor has since agreed to fight Lopez, and Catterall has signed with Matchroom.
“It’s a higher level fight,” Taylor told ProBox TV. “Teofimo Lopez is a high-level operator. He’s got the accolades to his name. Unified world champion at lightweight.
“He obviously beat [in 2020, Vasyl] Lomachenko – you don’t get the right decision over Lomachenko if you can’t box; if you can’t fight. You can’t compete with Lomachenko if you can’t box and you can’t fight, so he’s a very good fighter.
“I just believe he beat a small featherweight coming up to lightweight. He was very small, and injured, but you’ve got to give credit where it’s due. He got the result, and Lomachenko got in the ring to fight, so he got the result and he did very well.
“You could say he’s the most decorated [opponent], on paper. But probably [in 2018, Viktor] Postol was my toughest opponent so far.
“He did very well to get that win, but I don’t believe that was the best version of Lomachenko that showed up. But it’s neither here nor there – he got the victory, and Lomachenko’s accolades and performances speak for themselves. You’ve got to give credit where it’s due.”
In the build-up to the fight with Catterall, Taylor expected to be fighting at 140lbs for the final time. The demand for a rematch contributed to him remaining there, but he has since replaced his then-trainer Ben Davison with Joe McNally, and is no longer convinced that he needs to move up.
“I can make the weight,” he continued. “I’m back to being disciplined again. After the [in 2021, Jose Carlos] Ramirez fight I sort of took my eye off the ball, with the success that I had. Went out; drank a little bit too much beer; ate a little too much good-tasting bad food, and never saw the inside of a boxing gym for months on end.
“On my best night he gets nowhere near me. He got me at my worst night and he still couldn’t do a number on me. If I’d been in that ring that night with Regis Prograis, or Ramirez, and performed like that, I’d have got knocked out.
“I can stay at 140lbs if I really wanted to. I’m back to how I’d always been before I won a world title. Being in the gym – a gym rat – being disciplined and always looking after my weight and being in shape.
“I’ve always been like that. It was just after that fight, a bit of complacency took over, and that was almost a grave mistake, so I’ll not be making that mistake again.”