Jack Catterall waited for the phone to ring. And he waited and waited.
The WBO’s mandatory challenger for the super-lightweight title held by undisputed king Josh Taylor has been in line to face the super Scot for months.
He even stepped aside to allow Taylor to fight Jose Ramirez to determine the world’s number one at 140lbs.
Then he nervously waited for the Taylor fight to be nailed down while Josh was linked to potentially-lucrative contests with the likes of Manny Pacquaio and Terence Crawford.
Recently, however, Taylor-Catterall was finally unveiled as part of a new line-up on Sky Sports as they begin the post-Eddie Hearn era.
“It’s a great platform for the fight, I’ve never boxed on Sky before and it will open me up to new supporters, so that’s amazing,” admitted Catterall, who has been monitoring Taylor’s career closely for months.
“With Josh being a southpaw we’ve been drilling southpaw stuff but we were never under the illusion that it was definitely going to be Josh, there was always the chance that he was going to vacate, so it could have been the WBO NO. 2, Liam Paro, who’s also a southpaw, but it could have been anybody so we’ve been up and down,” Jack said. “[We’ve been] practicing bits and sparring different types of fighters getting work around the board but obviously I’ve never had this much notice for a fight, I think we’re still 16 weeks away and if you speak to Jamie [Moore] and Nigel [Travis] for the last 18 months I’ve been in the gym, working, resting, working so it’s nice to finally get the fight and have a good amount of notice to prepare well for it.”
The bout is in Glasgow on December 18. Catterall is 26-0 with 13 stoppages and the Chorley southpaw is confident.
“It’s all about timing and doing it correctly,” he said, of the temptation to overtrain with so much time available. “I think the Jack of three or four years ago would maybe be training every day like a madman but having the right team around me, the right coaches and mentors, I understand my body now and I know 16 weeks is a long time, especially when I’ve been in the gym and it means there’s time for studying, practicing not just going in the gym for the sake of it, sweating and killing myself every day and actually doing things properly.”
Was he concerned that Taylor might go in another direction?
“It’s crossed my mind a number of times, and you know what, it’s only right,” Catterall went on. “He’s earned the right to talk about these big fights, he’s undisputed world champion, he’s had 18 fights and he’s achieved a lot in those fights and if he’d chose to vacate and go up to 147 or fight somebody else he was entitled to do that, so it did cross my mind. But at the same time I went to see his fight with Ramirez and we spoke by message on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and it turned out he’s a man of his word. I agreed to step aside earlier this year for the big fight that he had and he’s honored his word and returned the favor and now it’s my turn to fight for all the belts.”
While Catterall believes in himself, he knows he’s not the marquee name of a Pacquiao or Crawford, but that doesn’t mean he thinks Taylor will overlook him. On the contrary, he knows the Scottish champ cannot afford to think of bigger names until Catterall is defeated.
“I think he’s got a good coach in Ben [Davison] but sometimes I think he might be reaching a bit too far and underestimating me,” Catterall continued. “But if you look at who he’s fought he’s certainly delivered and prepared well for every fight he’s had, so you’d like to think he’s not [overlooking Catterall]. I don’t read into it too much. I just know that until it’s over the line and it’s signed he could have fought anybody. But now it’s me.”
Taylor has shown different facets to his game on his way to winning the World Boxing Super Series and acquiring all the belts, and Catterall can envisage a clever boxing match with pockets of violence, unless they both decide to dig their heels in.
“With Josh, I think Ben will have him trying to box and if he gets caught and he’s shown he can do it he likes to get involved in a scrap, it’s about nullifying him, taking away his boxing ability, closing the distance and making it in to my fight.”
Because between him, Travis and Moore they know what Taylor’s strengths and weaknesses are. They’ve had months and months to prepare.
“For the last couple of years we’ve watched his fights and he’s always out-performed himself, boxed really well and he’s beaten some really good fighters,” conceded Jack. “That last fight [against Ramirez], we thought it was a tough one for Josh but he came through and showed different things than he had done previously. I guess as fighters we’re all learning, especially at our age. I’m 28 and he’s two years older than me so it’s not like we’re on the decline, we’re always learning and he’s got a new coach so he’ll be working on new things. I’m going to have to be the best Jack Catterall to beat Josh on December 18, no question about it. I’ve got to put together everything I’ve done in previous fights times 10 and go to Scotland and absolutely smash it.”
Catterall will travel without the weight of expectation as the challenger and underdog. Taylor will be the man with the headlines, as Catterall generously acknowledges given his wondrous achievements, but it’s all motivation for Jack.
“I don’t read a lot of stuff but I’ve read some nice things and nice comments about how I’ve earned my right and I’ve done what I need to, beat who’s in front of me and always delivered and then on the flipside it’s who’s this, he shouldn’t be mandatory etc,” Jack continued. “But I don’t feel the pressure. Every fight I’ve had good success in – I know it’s been under my own promotion with BT and I’ve been their fighter – I’ve been to Belfast and boxed [Tyrone] McKenna. I’ve been to Leeds and boxed Tyrone Nurse, been to Liverpool to fight this guy, been down south to fight that guy. I’ve always been that fighter who’s travelled to their hometowns so I think the pressure is on Josh. He’s not boxed in the Hydra for a couple of years, it’s a fight he didn’t have to take and he could have reached and got a big American fighter and pushed on in that direction but I’m going there to upset the applecart.”