Josh Taylor escaped defeat and kept hold of his four world junior welterweight titles thanks to a controversial split-points decision victory over Jack Catterall on Saturday.
The unheralded Catterall floored Taylor and out-boxed him for most of the fight, yet two of the three judges scored the fight for WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO champion Taylor in front of his home fans at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
Taylor, who took a count in the eighth round, rallied in the later rounds and was awarded scores of 114-111 and 113-112, with the other going 113-112 to Catterall.
It was Taylor's third world title defense and his first on home soil since he was crowned champion at the same venue in May 2019 -- but this one will be remembered for the judges' baffling verdict.
Not much was known about Catterall internationally before the biggest fight of his career, but he produced a technically smart performance worthy of the top level in front of a sell-out crowd of 12,101. Catterall's fluent boxing made him look like the undisputed champion, rather than Taylor, who was caught too easily and found landing clean shots too hard.
But Taylor, who has talked about stepping up a weight division for bigger fights against the likes of Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr., insisted he did enough to win the fight in the later rounds.
"One-hundred percent, I thought I won the fight; I started a little slow but once I got into my rhythm I started catching him with my shots," Taylor said.
"It wasn't my best performance and I've put a lot of pressure on myself being heavy favorite and boxing back at home ... but once I started catching him, I believe I got the win 100 percent. I know I won the fight, overall I scored the bigger shots and the more meaningful shots. He put up a good fight, but he never won the fight. Second half of the fight I took control."
Taylor also acknowledged it might be his last fight at 140 pounds, a further blow to Catterall, who would have wanted a rematch given the controversy.
Catterall (26-1, 13 KOs), 28, from Chorley near Manchester, England, had waited three years for his first world title shot since being made WBO mandatory challenger and he did not waste any more time in a bright opening. Catterall showed good technique and was able to land more punches against his fellow southpaw.
Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs), 31, from Edinburgh, Scotland, entered this fight in fine form after flooring American Jose Ramirez twice on his way to a career-best win in May 2021. But he was slow to get started against Catterall, who was sharper for most of the second round.
Taylor suddenly let his hands go toward the end of the second round as if someone had just pressed the "on" switch, and the champ was a lot more active in the third.
Catterall switched to boxing at range, on the counter, as Taylor stepped it up, and the champ struggled to land clean shots. Catterall's confidence grew in the fourth round. He landed a flurry of punches toward the end of that round as Taylor looked increasingly frustrated.
Catterall targeted the body with success and sunk a left into Taylor's side in the fourth. After Taylor could not disrupt Catterall in the fifth, his corner must have been alarmed by the situation near the midway point with the challenger on the ascent.
Taylor was cut by the left eye by the sixth round and behind on points when he got caught by a big left hand from Catterall.
Things got worse for Taylor in the eighth when he sunk to a knee for a count after Catterall burst through with a cuffing left hand to the top of the head. Taylor showed plenty of guts to fight back and subdue Catterall in the ninth. The champ was further boosted in the 10th round when Catterall was docked a point for holding.
Taylor, belatedly, dominated in the 10th but spoiled his work at the end of the 11th with a petulant dig at Catterall after the bell, which saw him docked a point.
Catterall was as slippery as a bar of soap and used his jab to good effect to deny Taylor any openings as the Scot hunted for the KO in the last few rounds.
Catterall's team lifted their man on to their shoulders after the final bell, convinced he had done enough, but two of the judges thought otherwise.
On the undercard, Florida-based Cuban featherweight Robeisy Ramirez (9-1, 5 KOs) looked sensational in a three-round stoppage of Eric Donovan (14-2, 8 KOs). The double Olympic gold medalist stopped his Irish opponent in the third round with a left hook, after also forcing a first-round knockdown.
Ramirez, 28, showed his quality with an array of shots and pinpoint accuracy, as well as power that turned Donovan's legs to jelly in the third. Carl Moretti of promoter Top Rank said the plan is to move Ramirez toward a world title fight within a year.