WHEN Josh Taylor fought Jack Catterall for the first time in February 2022, he compared it to conquering Everest then returning to climb Arthur’s Seat.

His Everest was becoming undisputed super-lightweight champion of the world after a remarkable sequence of victories during which he took on and defeated the best in the division. Beating Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas in May 2021 to land all four belts was the undoubted pinnacle of an astonishing three-year period of dominance.

To go from that to fighting Catterall, this unassuming, relatively unknown Englishman, was a sizeable mental climbdown for Taylor. He was dismissive of Catterall and complacent. The match-up clearly didn’t stir his senses the way the others had. Even with all his titles to defend, Taylor struggled to get himself up for that initial bout and almost paid the costliest of prices. Only some questionable scoring from the judges saw him retain his undisputed status.

Fast forward 27 months and the tables have turned. Now it is Catterall who can afford to be sniffy about his opponent, to potentially spurn his advances. The Chorley fighter's commanding performance in Saturday night’s rematch in Leeds earned him the verdict he ought to have had in Glasgow, although the two 117-111 scorecards seemed wide on a night when Taylor performed well in bursts without landing many significant blows.

Just as he had after the first bout, the self-styled Tartan Tornado felt he had done enough to nick the win although it would have been undoubtedly harsh on Catterall had he been denied for a second time.

It was a hollow victory in a way with only pride and prospects on the line this time rather than world titles but it gives Catterall a platform to go on and pursue the honours that he has craved for so long.

At 30 years old he still has time on his side and he was quick to call out Teofimo Lopez, who became the first fighter to beat Taylor last summer, and a shot at Lopez’s WBO belt should the American come through a mandatory defence next month.

In contrast, a second successive defeat – and third patchy performance – leaves Taylor short of options. He is 33 now and there might be a temptation to choose this moment to bring down the curtain on a stellar career, his place as one of the greatest boxers to come out of Scotland already confirmed the moment he defeated Ramirez to become a four-belt undisputed world champion.

His only real alternative at this point would be to run it back with Catterall for a third time, with Taylor, his right eye swollen and closing up after being peppered with precision punches, immediately suggesting “let’s do a trilogy” to Catterall, a plea that confirmed he needs his nemesis now more than he ever did.

In his quest to prolong his career with one more spite-filled bout with Catterall, Taylor might find an unlikely ally in Eddie Hearn. Catterall might have his sights set on glory rather than another payday but his Matchroom promoter is more of a pragmatic figure who looks for the value in any potential contest.

Given how fan-friendly a fight the rematch was – neither man took a backwards step right until the final bell – then there could potentially be a merit in a third meeting, although it is hard to imagine there would be a huge appetite for it in Glasgow, for example, unless it was billed as Taylor’s final outing regardless of the outcome.

There is an undoubted irony that his brightest performance since defeating Ramirez went unrewarded but in the moments in the contest when Taylor was on top he didn’t seem able to go through the gears to overwhelm Catterall into submission as he has done with so many other opponents in the past.

Time catches up with all athletes and there is little doubt that the road back to another world title shot – either in this division or should he belatedly move up to welterweight – would need to be a long one for Taylor. An articulate, thoughtful speaker when he isn’t consumed by the rage and venom that helped fuel ticket sales for the Catterall rematch, there would be no shame in him calling it a day now to move into a career in boxing punditry. There would be no shortage of offers.

Should he decide, however, that he wants to keep fighting then it will likely come down to whatever Catterall wants to do next. And this time Taylor needs him a lot more than Catterall does the Scot.