By Danny Winterbottom
At around 6pm on Jul 26 Chorley’s unbeaten light welterweight prospect Jack Catterall was backstage at the Phones 4 U Arena in Manchester preparing to face Liverpool’s Nathan Brough, also unbeaten, in a highly anticipated trade fight for the vacant Central Area 10st championship.
Whilst it is safe to say that the majority of fans attending that night’s thoroughly enjoyable Frank Warren promoted boxing marathon were still lubricating their throats in the Arena bars at 6pm (and who could blame them, it was at least 30 degrees at ringside), a small band of boxing writers and a knot of both fighters friends and family were expecting a nip and tuck affair between Brough, a gloried exponent of the amateur game and Catterall, a 21-year-old veteran of tough Miami gyms.
Brough 11-1 (2 KOs), 6ft 1ins tall, had needed to strip naked at the weigh in the previous day to make the 10st limit but in the opening round he put his long arms to good use as he tagged the Chorley man several times much to the delight of his head trainer Paul Stevenson and an unidentified female fan who shouted ‘Come on Nathan!’ on repeat.
Catterall 9-0 (5 KOs) was unmoved however and he continued to glide around the ring with graceful fluidity in round two, picking his spots to let his hands go in combination, until suddenly and quite unexpectedly he noticed a gap in the defences of Brough and instinctively uncorked a left hand. Boom!
Such was the impact of Brough’s head on the ring canvas that his skull ricocheted off it like a basketball would do in the hands of LeBron James in mid dribble. It was a stunning and shockingly brutal ending. No need for referee Mark Lyson to count, Brough wasn’t getting up and he needed oxygen in the ring but thankfully made a speedy recovery.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better performance and although I was more than confident of getting the win I didn’t think I would stop him as early as I did,” Catterall told BoxingScene from his home last week.
“We had a game plan to break him (Brough) down over the course of the 10 rounds and I knew early on I would need to stay with him and then begin to time his jab but when the finish came I was made up!”
With one stunning punch Catterall had announced himself on the domestic scene in ruthless fashion but this was no overnight success story.
Having watched a then 19-year-old Catterall from ringside as he made his debut at the Bowlers Arena in Manchester back in 2012 with a four round points win over Carl Allen, he has embarked on a two year development plan under the guidance of renowned trainer Lee Beard that has seen the youngster make frequent trips to America to spar in some of the toughest gyms in Miami and New York.
“These last two years have been tough” Catterall admitted, who was without trainer Lee Beard in his corner on Saturday due to Beard’s work with unbeaten welterweight Cecil McCalla in New York, so John Costello and Haroon Headley took charge.
“I have had a lot of sparring (over 100 rounds with Cecil McCalla), not just in this camp, but in several world champions’ camps when they were preparing for big fights.
“I have been fortunate to see how they have prepared for fights and what it takes to get to that level and Lee has an abundance of knowledge having worked all over the world with top fighters and I am grateful to be surrounded by good people.
“I have been around the gyms in Britain and sparred with the likes of Kell Brook, who is a huge welterweight, but I have never felt as though I was out of my depth.”
Catterall’s preparations for a Central Area title fight were more a kin to a seasoned world champion preparing to defend his belts than a nine fight novice looking to claim his first title, but lengthy training sessions with active world rated campaigners can only add more wrinkles to his game.
“I was in Vegas for six weeks working with Argenis Mendez (former IBF super feather champ also trained by Beard) as he prepared for the Barthelemy rematch and then for the last few weeks we spent time in Miami so it was along and tough camp,” he recalled.
To earn respect in the packed Florida gyms populated by hundreds of Latin American fighters desperate to fight their way to success at all costs you must be confident in your own ability and be prepared to take on all comers, especially if you’re a kid from Britain on away turf.
“There are literally thousands of fighters over there that wanna make it to the top and they will have a fight with you in the gym!” Jack said
“It is a fight every day of the week for them so you need to show confidence and show that you can handle yourself.
“The gyms are noisy. Lots of shouting and swearing but the work is brilliant with lots of Mexican and Dominican fighters and I hope to continue to go out there when I get the chance” said the southpaw
With his record now standing at 9-0 with 5 KOs Catterall has already accelerated past Area title level and has his eyes firmly set on bigger prizes when the new season begins in September.
“I would take the Willie Limond (Limond added the British title to his Commonwealth strap when he outpointed Curtis Woodhouse earlier this year) fight tomorrow but I know that won’t happen.
“Beating Brough would have moved me up in the rankings but I am in no rush, I’m only 21, so after I come back from Portugal in two weeks I will sit down with Lee (Beard) and Frank Warren to discuss what we do next.
“I’m not that bothered about defending the Central Area title but whatever Lee decides I will go with because he has made great decisions so far in my career and if I continue to do my job in the ring then I can achieve my ambitions of becoming a world champion.”