The Weekend That Was

Boxing is often called the theater of the unexpected, and this was certainly the case on Saturday night as the game’s longest-reigning champion, Jerwin Ancajas, and one of only two undisputed world champions, Josh Taylor, plus hot young prospect Chris Colbert, were all put on notice, with two of the three served crushing career setbacks that were, without a doubt, very much unexpected.

Our tale begins in Scotland, where “The Tartan Tornado,” Josh Taylor, made the first defense of his undisputed 140 pound title against 20-to-1 underdog Jack “El Gato” Catterall, the 26-0 mandatory challenger out of Lancashire, England who was viewed by many as nothing more than a bothersome stump in the road for the Scotsman. But midway into round one that notion was quickly dismissed, as a stumped Taylor was buckled by a hard left hand. Catterall immediately had Josh’s respect, and followed up by controlling much of the first half of the fight. Taylor had few answers, particularly for Catterall’s left hand which seemed to land more or less at will.

Taylor down in round eight.

Things looked particularly dire for the defending champ early in round eight, when an overhand left put him on the canvas for the first time in his career. Taylor rose but appeared exhausted, if not dazed from the accumulation of shots he had taken through the fight. But just as the bout appeared Catterall’s for the taking, “El Gato” stepped off the gas in round nine and let Taylor take over at close quarters. Catterall wasn’t taking a beating, but he thwarted Taylor’s aggression with plenty of clinching and roughhouse tactics rather than counterpunching, and these eventually cost him a point in round ten, though referee Marcus McDonnell returned the favor at the end of the eleventh by docking Josh a point for what appeared to be a light tap after the bell rang, a decision which drew a chorus of boos from the pro-Taylor crowd in Glasgow.

The champion took the fight to Catterall in the final round, though his aggression was largely ineffective, as the challenger maneuvered out of close quarters, but while effective on the defensive end, Jack failed to close out the fight in a manner that would have bolstered his otherwise spirited effort. When the final bell rang, The Fight City had it 113-112 Catterall, the challenger just barely holding on to the lead he had built over the first eight rounds. Judge Howard Foster had the same score, but was overruled by judges Ian John-Lewis and Victor Loughlin, who had it 114-111 and 113-112, respectively, for Taylor. In the aftermath many are crying robbery and home-town decision, but while the champ’s showing was devoid of the energy and effectiveness that carried him to victory against Regis Prograis and Jose Ramirez, the undeniable truth is that a clear-cut victory was there for the taking for Catterall who instead let all those shiny belts slip through his fingers with his performance over the last four rounds.

Taylor vs Catterall
Not many cared for the decision.

“I don’t think there is any need for a rematch,” said Taylor afterwards. “I won the fight by several rounds. I won in the second half of the fight. I took over and bossed him. He was doing a hell of a lot of holding and spoiling.”

The challenger naturally thought otherwise. “Today I should [have] been waking up with all of the belts,” declared Catterall the day after. “Fifteen months out the ring, they all wrote me off. Sacrificed everything to fight one of the top pound-for-pound ranked fighters, gave him a lesson. For what?”

Decision aside, Catterall put the 140 pound division on notice with his display of skill and poise. Taylor, on the other hand, suddenly looks like a vulnerable champion. Despite his ambition to move up and challenge the likes of Terence Crawford, this fight might serve as a wake-up call that puts the brakes on those plans. Several noteworthy fights can still be made at 140. which Taylor may stand a better chance in than he would against the welterweight elite, including Teofimo Lopez and Gervonta “Tank” Davis, both moving up from 135. Nevertheless, Taylor told Sky Sports this was his last appearance at 140.

Across the pond in Sin City, a Showtime triple-header gave us two major upsets. In the main event, Chris Colbert, the flashy and charismatic WBA super-featherweight mandatory who was originally slated to be facing titlist Roger Gutierrez, was completely dominated by late replacement Hector Garcia, the WBA’s fifth ranked contender who came in on three weeks notice. He was a man on a mission from the very get-go as he took over the tempo of the fight with his controlled aggression, never letting Colbert, a 22-to-1 favorite, into his comfort zone.

Garcia surprised Colbert.

In round seven, a counter left hand deposited Colbert onto the seat of his pants for the first time in his career. Colbert got up on unsteady legs, and Garcia nearly took him out with a sustained onslaught of leather that Colbert just barely weathered. Hopelessly behind on the scorecards going into the latter rounds, Colbert never could turn the tide as Garcia carried out an extremely disciplined fight plan, winning a near-shut out on each of the three judges’ scorecards. After the fight, Colbert stated that he wanted to run it back with a rematch, despite having shown little in the ring to suggest he deserves it. Garcia, on the other hand, is looking forward to bigger and better things, in particular a shot at Roger Gutierrez for the WBA title Tank Davis relinquished.

“I worked too hard to get in this position today, so I definitely want to fight Gutierrez,” declared Garcia.

The opener of Showtime’s triple-header featured perhaps the best fight of the day, with Argentina’s Fernando Martinez dominating Filipino 115-pound titlist Jerwin Ancajas over twelve fun-filled rounds en route to a unanimous decision. Martinez outlanded Ancajas with the crisper, more accurate punches, but had to walk through some significant firepower to do so. In the end, Ancajas’ eyes were nearly swollen shut as he ate a CompuBox-tabulated 421 power punches, prompting Jack Reiss to take a close look at the Filipino between some of the latter rounds to assess whether he ought to continue.

Martinez dominated Ancajas.

Ancajas, who briefly held the distinction as boxing’s longest reigning champion following Gary Russell Jr.’s stunning defeat earlier this year to Mark Magsayo, maintained a positive attitude, despite falling short of making his tenth successful title defense

“I am so thankful for Team Martinez for making this fight,” Ancajas said afterwards. “Yes, I’ll do a rematch and do everything next time to achieve my goals. I learned a lot in the fight and he was a great challenger.”

Going forward, Martinez would like to unify the titles at super-flyweight, which, if he can get past Ancajas in a presumed rematch, would make for some incredible action in the future. With Kazuto Ioka holding the WBO title, Juan Francisco Estrada holding the WBC belt, and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez looming large in the background, 115 continues to be one of the (if not the) hottest divisions in all of boxing, and now a new star from Argentina has emerged.

In the only fight of the day that went mostly according to plan, 2016 Olympian Gary Antuanne Russell became the first man ever to stop former 140 pound champion Viktor Postol in the co-feature bout of the Showtime triple-header. The Ukrainian-born Postol had went the distance with the likes of Terence Crawford, Josh Taylor, and Jose Ramirez (whom many thought he should have gotten a decision over in his last outing), and appeared as though he was headed towards a one-sided decision loss to Russell before referee Michael Ortega made the highly questionable decision to stop the fight with 29 seconds to go in the tenth and final round.

Russell stopped Postol.

Afterwards Postol complained about the stoppage, while also acknowledging that he could not perform as well as he had hoped. “I just couldn’t do what I wanted to do in the ring,” said the former champion. “My legs were not there and my arms were not there like I needed them to be. I’ve fought much better fighters than Gary Russell, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to perform to my abilities.”

It’s perfectly understandable that Postol might be off his game considering what is going on in his home country, which is currently under military attack from Russia while Postol’s wife and twin sons remain sheltered in Brovary, Ukraine. Postol intended to return home immediately following the fight, and our hearts go out to him and his family for their safety.

Russell was elated with the victory and the distinction of becoming the only man to ever stop Viktor “The Iceman” Postol. Russell might be the most promising Russell-brother active today, and this win may accelerate his run towards the top of the 140-pound division . If Josh Taylor does decide to vacate his four belts, Gary Antuanne Russell may find himself with an opportunity to fight for one of them and several intriguing matchups await him if he stays active (unlike his older brother Gary Russell Jr.).

— Alden Chodash