They say patience is a virtue, and where Jack Catterall is concerned slow and steady will have won the race if he manages to dethrone Josh Taylor in Glasgow this weekend.
The 28-year-old light-welterweight from Chorley, Lancashire, has been tolerantly and cleverly biding his time while waiting for a crack at world honours. It has been over three years since he was first installed as mandatory challenger for the WBO title, only for his well-earned shot to be put on hold when champion Maurice Hooker and successor Jose Ramirez took on unification and alternative mandatory bouts respectively.
Then, having already spent 21 months in pole position with the WBO, Catterall refused to strain at the leash when presented with an enticing proposition to step aside and allow Ramirez, owner of both the WBO and WBA straps at the time, to scrap it out with fellow unified chief Taylor for all the light-welterweight marbles.
Jack Catterall (R) is set to face light-welterweight king Josh Taylor (L) on Saturday night
Catterall has waited patiently and cleverly for his shot at a light-welterweight world title
Taylor gave his word that he would follow up a victory by not only delivering the world-title challenge Catterall desires, but also handing him an even loftier opportunity to become king of the division. It was an offer he pondered over for some time before eventually accepting.
‘We knew that even if Taylor had beat Ramirez there was always the chance of Taylor moving up and being offered a bigger fight in America and vacating the WBO belt,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘Likewise with Ramirez, you can’t say he’d have definitely boxed us.’
Fast forward 16 months and, refreshingly, Taylor has kept his word; after cruising past Ramirez with a commanding swagger last May, he followed up it by scheduling a date with his domestic rival.
For Catterall and trainer Jamie Moore, the Scot’s insistence on honouring what was merely a gentleman’s agreement came as a pleasant surprise.
‘As Jack said there it was a difficult one,’ Moore, a former European and British champion at light-middleweight, says. ‘We did speak about it for a good few days and it was probably a week or so before he made the decision.
‘But I’ve got to say actually, Jack’s right that it was a bit of a gamble in that sense, but you’ve got to take your hat off to Josh Taylor for sticking to his word, because there was no contract involved. It was just a gentleman’s agreement, a handshake.
He and trainer Jamie Moore (L) made the tough call to step aside from his mandatory position
Taylor promised he would give Catterall a shot at the undisputed crown if he beat Jose Ramirez
And to the pair’s surprise, the Scot kept his word after getting the better of Ramirez
‘So in terms of that, you’ve got to say he stuck to his side of the bargain fairly. I do take my hat off to him for that.’
Catterall’s all-British battle with Taylor, who is now perched on top of the 140lbs throne, was initially arranged for December 18 in Scotland. Yet to the challenger’s dismay, his long-awaited tilt at glory was delayed even further when Taylor sustained a knee injury in training.
February 26 was the revised date and, despite the eagerness eating away at him, Catterall had to resist blowing his top.
‘I couldn’t let it frustrate me. There’s been so many hurdles in the way that it was just another hurdle I had to deal with,’ he insists.
‘You can only control the variables in your control, so it was out of my hands. I just had to crack on, head down, and I knew the fight was gonna happen at that point so it was just about using that time wisely, not being out of the gym and being reckless, looking after my body and preparing.’
They were then forced to wait even longer when Taylor pulled out of their first December date
While in conversation with the pair on Zoom a week out from the fight, there is a sense that Catterall and Moore now reflect on the delay as somewhat of a blessing in disguise. It has allowed even more time to prepare for a true acid test at the SSE Hydro Arena, where they will collide with a fighter many regard as one of the top 10 pound-for-pound in boxing right now.
Taylor has claimed 18 straight victories as a professional, battering Ramirez conclusively last time out and also seeing off other world-level opponents in Regis Prograis, Ivan Baranchyk and Viktor Postol.
Prograis ran him closest in an all-out war and the American still disputes his majority-decision defeat to this day. But even so, it has not been easy for Moore to pick holes in Taylor.
‘It’s always more difficult [to spot weaknesses] the better the fighter you’re in with,’ he explains. ‘When you’re going against elite-level fighters, they make so few mistakes. You really have got to execute your game plan to perfection and exploit their weaknesses, or their vulnerabilities, as best you can.
Moore admits it has been a tall order spotting flaws in Taylor’s arsenal ahead of the fight
But he insists they can draw positives from his close-run win over Regis Prograis in 2019
The 43-year-old believes Catterall is good enough to exploit Taylor’s few weaknesses
‘The main ingredient for that is you need a fighter who’s capable of doing it, and I believe I’ve got a fighter in Jack Catterall who, even though at the moment Josh Taylor is like Superman, I think Jack is his kryptonite.’
Moore adds: ‘Tactically the Prograis fight was a lot closer than any of Taylor’s fights. There’s an argument to say it could have gone either way. I think Taylor just nicked it, but it’s one of those where you couldn’t have argued if it went either way.
‘So there are positives for us to take from that. Jack’s a different level of fighter in terms of defence than Prograis, Prograis is probably a bit more aggressive, but we can take the positives and the negatives from that and blend it into our gameplan.
‘But when you’re going in with a fighter like Taylor, you can’t have one game plan or even just one backup plan, you’ve got to be versatile and you’ve got to be able to adapt to what’s happening in that particular round or situation, and Jack is more than capable of doing that.
‘He just needs the opportunity to prove it on this stage. Just because he’s never boxed at this level before, at some point every fighter throughout history has made that step up and they either sink or swim – and I firmly believe that Jack will swim.’
Catterall needs to make the step up in class to prove he is a talented fighter, says Moore
The Chorley man is yet to compete at world-level and is stepping into the unknown vs Taylor
Taylor is certainly a colossal step up for Catterall when assessing his previous opposition, though he is by no means a newcomer in the sport. His professional debut came all the way back in 2012, and unlike his fellow Brit he has enjoyed a slow ascent to the top of the tree.
After competing on several small-hall shows early on in his career the English southpaw gradually worked his way towards the light-welterweight summit, collecting European, inter-continental and British titles along the way. But it is not cruel to highlight that he is yet to undergo world-level testing, meaning his date of destiny with Taylor represents a major leap in quality.
When I ask if he always felt destined to compete for the biggest prize in the sport, Catterall says: ‘Because I turned professional quite early, I didn’t really understand the economics of boxing. It was only when I got to five or 10 fights that I picked up my first title and I started taking notice of the rankings, ‘cos I was quite young.
‘I was looking at the boys in the division and the belts that were floating about, I’d been across the country sparring, and then I thought, ‘do you know what, I fancy this’.
‘Then you start piecing together your kind of route, who you want to fight to get to a certain position.
But Catterall has known for the last five or six years he was destined to fight for a world title
‘I’d say for the last five or six years I’ve definitely envisioned that a world title was capable for me. So I’m just absolutely buzzing now to be a week away from it.’
While it has been close to a decade in the making, Catterall is not feeling the pressure heading into the most important evening of his pugilistic journey. ‘I’m not nervous,’ he stresses. ‘There’s a time and a place to let them nerves in. I’m more excited at the moment. I’m excited to get up to Scotland, settle in, get the fight week media out the way and then I know the time and place to let them good energy nerves in.
‘I’ll be fired up ready next Saturday.’
Moore has also noticed a difference in his fighter’s mentality in the lead up to what promises to be a defining night in his career. The 43-year-old laughs: ‘Look how serious he is! He’s never usually this serious.’
Yet joking aside, he is bold enough to draw comparisons between Catterall and ex-stablemate Ricky Hatton, insisting his laser focus in camp has been reminiscent of the former two-weight world champion.
Moore continues: ‘I’ve used this reference a few times about Ricky Hatton and Kostya Tszyu, and I only use it in terms of the magnitude of the fight and everyone saying Ricky wasn’t capable of stepping up to that level, Kostya Tzyu was a similar sort of stature in rankings pound-for-pound wise as Josh Taylor now, but the demeanour and body language that I saw in Ricky, the change in him when that challenge was presented to him, I’ve seen the same in Jack.
Moore has noticed a difference in his man’s mentality heading into this clash with Taylor
He has compared Catterall’s focus to ex-stablemate Ricky Hatton before his Kostya Tszyu win
Moore believes Catterall will rise to the occasion like Hatton did in Glasgow this weekend
‘So I’m excited because you look for those little things in your fighter; are they gonna shy away from the challenge or are they gonna rise to the occasion? And I know just by Jack’s body language he’s gonna rise to the occasion.’
All eyes will of course be on Taylor and Catterall as they trade fists in pursuit of light-welterweight supremacy this weekend, but Saturday’s contest also entails two of the most respected coaches in Britain pitting their wits against one another.
Moore will be in one corner and Ben Davison, the 29-year-old who masterminded Tyson Fury’s comeback in 2015 and is now assembling an impressively talented stable of fighters, will be in the other.
Davison has whipped up controversy of late by taking numerous swipes at the standard of coaching in the UK, which he feels has become ‘lazy’ in recent times. Last month he also told Sportsmail: ‘There are a lot of s*** trainers out there, that’s a matter of fact.’
The coach will be pitting his wits against opposite number Ben Davison (L) on Saturday night
His comments did not go down well with Moore, who, despite his admiration for Davison, has warned the new kid on the block against making such generalisations.
‘My opinion is you can’t make blanket statements like that, because they’re just not true,’ Moore says.
‘What you’ve got to understand is, I’ve met Ben a couple of times and he’s a nice guy, but he’s quite new to being involved at the high end of boxing and the media side of it, and you trip up when you first get involved. You trip up and say stuff that sometimes you want to grab hold of, drag it back and say, “why did you say that?”
‘Maybe that was one of those moments where he said that, but I’m sure in time he’ll learn to not make blanket statements like that because it’s just not true.’
For now, though, Moore’s attention is fixed entirely on Catterall and his bid to rock the light-welterweight division to its core on Saturday night.
Moore feels Davison recently made ‘blanket statements’ about the standard of UK coaching
Few are offering his man much of a chance against Taylor, who is being mooted as a potential opponent for WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, arguably the best fighter on the planet right now, and other stellar names if he emerges unscathed here.
But if Moore and Catterall have anything to say about it, they will be the ones in line for a Stateside mega-fight when all is said and done in Glasgow.
‘Jack’s worked all his life for this,’ Moore asserts. ‘He’s intelligent enough to beat Josh, he’s fit enough, he’s strong enough, he’s determined enough, he’s got the mindset to do it, and just because he’s never fought at this level doesn’t mean that he can’t.
‘He’s gonna go to Scotland, he’s gonna go to Josh’s backyard and he’s gonna shock the world.’
Catterall, too, is unwavering in his belief that history beckons for him this weekend.
Catterall and Moore are both adamant that history beckons for him at the SSE Hydro
The challenger says he is coming to Scotland to spoil Taylor’s big homecoming party
‘It’ll be massive for me. Not just for me but my team, my family, everyone that’s coming up next week to support us,’ he says.
‘It’s for everybody this, so it probably won’t register until after the fight, but I’m excited to go up there and I believe I’ve got all the tools now. It’s the perfect time for me to go up to Scotland and do it.
‘It’s gonna be hostile, we know that. But I feel like there’s less pressure on me going up there.
‘This is his big homecoming party and I’m going up there to spoil it all.’