Joe McNally recognises that Saturday’s fight with Jack Catterall will show how much Josh Taylor has left.

Taylor recruited McNally before his defeat in June 2023 – the first of his career – by Teofimo Lopez in New York.

That he had struggled to a controversial decision in his previous fight, against Catterall, under the guidance of Ben Davison and has since suffered several injuries has contributed to suggestions that he is a fighter in decline.

Until the fight with Catterall in February 2022 – their rematch is on Saturday at Leeds’ First Direct Arena – Taylor was recognised as the world’s finest super lightweight.

In 2024 that status belongs to Lopez, who was masterful against Taylor, but having had an additional year to observe his fighter McNally is confident that not only has the 33-year-old recovered from each of his injuries, but that his condition is such that he can offer no excuses should he lose.

Taylor had spoken of moving to welterweight after his victory over Catterall, and his struggles during the second half of his fight with Lopez made it tempting to conclude that he had found it difficult to again make 140lbs. A torn plantar fascia had regardless undermined his preparations for that evening, but ahead of the rematch with the 30-year-old Catterall, McNally is convinced that his fighter is ready to impress.

“The weight’s not an issue,” he said. “Josh is a very slender man. People think, ‘He needs to move up; he needs to move up’, but there’s one thing that doesn’t lie – his numbers. We utilise the science in the sport, and the man, starting camp, was no higher than 154lbs –10 weeks ago. The problem that you’ll have with Josh is because he can make the weight so easy, he has a tendency to over-indulge throughout the camp. That’s the problem you have. It’s not about making the weight; it’s about putting the right food in. 

“I don’t know Jack personally, but a lot of people go on about Josh being big – he’s tall, but he’s very, very slender. He’s only got thin legs – he’s quite wide, but he’s not thick set. He’s only thin. Catterall is very stocky. He’s a big lump, and a big boy at the weight. Jack’s got big broad shoulders; a big back; big legs. I know Jack really, really struggles. It’s a struggle for everyone. The same as Josh – the structure I’ve put in place with his strength and conditioning; his running programmes; his nutrition. I know Jamie and Nigel have got the exact same thing for Jack and they’ll have prepared diligently and covered every aspect of his training and diet, so I expect Jack to do the weight, but it won’t be a walk in the park either.

“Thankfully [Taylor’s] followed the programme, and his weight’s fine. He’s not too far off the weight. He’s not too high and he’s not too low – he’s where we need him. If he tires in the fight, it’s nothing to do with the weight. He’s done all his roadwork; he’s done all his circuit training; his strength and conditioning. He’s done over 150 rounds of sparring. It’s down to the man himself to put a performance in on Saturday, so his weight’s not an issue. 

“The delay helped because when he had his eye operation – the procedure he had was to tighten the muscles of the eye. When we started camp and were training, they told us, ‘You can train, but don’t train too hard’. There’s obviously complicated problems; problems with every surgery you have. Unfortunately for us, when we were stepping the intensity up in the camp, the eye started flaring up. But if we’d stuck to the original date we couldn’t keep stepping the training up and resume our sparring. ‘Do we ease up; forget the sparring for now, and please everyone else and go ahead with the original date, or go and get the correction off the doctor’s advice and the delay of four or five weeks?’ That’s why I was pleased. 

“[His eye’s] fantastic. He got the correction done and he hasn’t complained once about it. His defence has been good. His reaction time’s good. There’s f*** all wrong with it. I’m happy.

“I had a lot of regrets with the Teofimo fight. He couldn’t run with his foot – he couldn’t do really high intensity work. Even his first 60-plus rounds of sparring – it was all holding his feet, which isn’t Josh Taylor. Maybe we should have delayed that. Thankfully there’s no injuries; the weight’s good. This will show Saturday if there is still a vintage Josh Taylor in there.”

That they worked together for the first time against so fine a fighter heightened the difficulty of the Liverpool-based McNally’s job as Taylor’s new trainer. The additional year they have since had together has strengthened their understanding, and also involved McNally separating with several fighters – by extension allowing him to focus more on those he retains.

“In an ideal world you’ll always want one or two fights before you go into a big fight together, but we don’t live in an ideal world and Josh Taylor being who he is and what he’s achieved and accomplished in the sport – he’s not getting easy fights,” said McNally. “He’s always going to be in big fights at this stage of his career. 

“With the Teofimo fight, what better insight I’ve got is how he reacts in the corner, and what he reacts to. Other than being the undisputed champion of the world, also his capabilities in a fight. Everyone’s got limitations, so I’ve got a better insight for Josh; the way he reacts; his mindset; his limitations; him as a person as a whole. I’ve made a few personal adjustments so I’ll get to Josh, so fingers crossed it pays off on Saturday and he’ll be victorious.

“I took a lot of fighters on. A lot of them were happy accidents, but I really had to weigh my own situation up. Knowing the business side of the sport now, the plans that they need and the structure to get them to the top – sometimes you’re on a different page to the managers; sometimes the fighters are not living the life; sometimes they just don’t gel with meself. 

“I’ve got a good assistant coach in Declan O’Rourke and just collaborated with another one – James Carney – and I ended up parting ways with four or five fighters. One of them’s walked away from the sport also. It’s a good benefit for the other fighters, but take away Josh, Liam Smith and James Metcalf I’ve got a fantastic young crop coming through, 24 years of age and under, which I’m really excited about. Pierce O’Leary; Dennis McCann; Jack Turner; Jadier Herrera; Nelson Birchall; young Leighton Birchall coming through, and Frankie Stringer.”