Pro-file: Jack Catterall
By Richard Hubbard
Bouts: 12 (12 wins, 8 KO)
Trainer: Lee Beard
When UN peacekeeper and Military policeman Jarkko Putkonen attempts his intervention at the aptly named World War III show in Manchester on October 10, he might be surprised to discover that he has more in common with opponent Jack Catterall than a 12-0 unbeaten record.
For Catterall himself is not a complete stranger to dealing with emergencies, albeit on a more local level, having trained and studied in Public Services during his time at Preston College. His course, when he is ready, provides him with a route to a career in the emergency industries, such as the fire brigade, army, ambulance service and the police.
It was his devotion to his studies, along with a desire to fully focus on one thing at a time, that hampered an amateur career that he describes as ‘not the best’, even though it did yield 48 wins from 66 contests and England recognition.
The amateur Catterall boxed out of the Chorley Club near to his home from the age of 10, but he did not allow it to become an all-consuming passion until turning professional under the guidance of Lee Beard in 2012.
“I didn’t let it affect my education,” stated the 22-year-old. “I knew I always wanted to box, but obviously a lot of things crop up in life and I know from some boxers that it can’t always be followed through because of other commitments – paying the bills, children and things like that. I kind of put boxing second while I was at school and college and, although I did box every season right up until I turned professional, it was never really the main focus.
“Once I left college I knew then there was a decision to make on what career to go down. I thought, I’ve boxed this long so I will go with it, and have never looked back,” he added, not ruling out a career in uniform in the later rounds of his working life.
“Maybe, one day, yeah. It was interesting, I did two years at Preston College and it is something definitely in future that I will look to get into. I wouldn’t say I’m a bright spark, but a quick learner and anything I focus on I give it one hundred per cent.
“I’m not going to make any excuses, I didn’t have the best amateur career – I won a CYP title, got to the final of the junior ABAs, boxed internationally for England on two occasions – but, like I said, it wasn’t really my main focus. For some fights I knew I didn’t have the right training or preparation, but I always loved fighting so I was going to fight no matter what. I reckon if I had applied myself more I could have done better, but then would I have got the grades I wanted at school and college?
“It just wasn’t my main focus. It was mainly trying to find the time to fit things in, you’re travelling to school, my college was in Preston and I was working part-time in different jobs. Trying to squeeze everything in can be too much sometimes.
“I was always in the gym, but not as focussed as I am now as a professional.”
The Southpaw’s entry into the professional ranks was relatively seamless, with an unbeaten CV quickly assembled after linking up with Beard and undergoing something of a crash course in Miami ahead of his pro debut.
Such has been the impression made since, Catterall is regularly name-checked as a future world champion by many experts, not least his promoter Frank Warren, who is sure he has a star in the making.
“I never put any pressure on myself,” insisted the what in new money should now be termed super-lightweight. “What Frank has had to say is good to hear because he has guided so many careers over the years. So for my name to be on his lips I must be doing something right and hopefully I can get the right fights and get to where I need to be.
“I met Lee in 2012 and we started training together. Then the opportunity came to travel to Miami one week after finishing college and we trained over there for six weeks and then had another three months at home to prepare for my debut. I knew straight away from working with Lee and being around professional fighters that it did suit my style more. I’ve never stopped learning since.
“It’s been like that a few times now. Every year there has been the opportunity to go with Lee to the States and train in the different gyms there. It is good, you can really focus with different fighters, different environments – it is a great learning experience.”
Catterall’s last two outings could also be described as educational. After stylishly making his way to 10-0, with keynote victories over Liverpool’s then unbeaten products Nathan Brough and Thomas Stalker, he then tackled the challenge of overcoming two stubborn, unambitious South Americans.
Cesar David Inalef and Gabriel Calfin were duly added to his victory roll and the WBO Inter-Continental title collected against Stalker retained, but the Argentinian double act weren’t in the entertainment business and it proved a frustrating experience for the young puncher.
“I guess they made it look a little bit ugly, but I can’t complain and I got the job done,” he reasoned.
“In both fights, as soon as I hit them they went dead negative, running round the ring. The first one spat his gumshield out, the second one was holding and doing all sorts of unorthodox stuff. When you’ve been sparring high level fighters – and I had a lot of sparring before them two fights – it is not something you are used to.
“You can’t train for that, but it is all a learning curve,” concluded Catterall, who was deducted two points against Calfin, adding to the chaotic nature of the contest.
“I’m never going to make excuses or anything, but I guess the ref didn’t do me any favours. He took the two points off and I obviously knew then that there is a fine line between that and getting chucked out – I had to deal with what was in front of me. No fight is going to be perfect, you’ve just got to deal with it and get the win, which I did.”
It will not come as a surprise that Catterall wasn’t crying out for a third opponent from Argentina for his next defence, although one was proposed on the initial hit list submitted by the matchmaker. He preferred to give that one a swerve and is happy with the prospect of taking on the unbeaten Finn Putkonen with his peacekeeping backstory.
“I like it and it has built up a bit of hype for the fight. A few people have mentioned it to me, so they have taken notice of it, which is a good thing.
“I’ve seen a couple of clips on YouTube, me and Lee have sat down and had a little watch together. There are a few things that we can work on. It makes a good fight, he will be confident and has the same record as me over 12 fights. He hasn’t boxed out of Finland before, but I have read his statement and he is confident and coming to fight, which is what I need. When you have people who throw punches and want to beat me, that is when you see the best of me.”
Catterall’s angst over not being able to unlock his full array of shots and skills against Calfin last time out is perhaps more understandable when you take into account where part of his preparations for the fight took place.
When the richest fight in history was finally booked for the MGM Grand in May, trainer Beard saw to it that his man would be mixing it with the Money Man for a spot of pre-Pac sparring.
“I had the fight in March and we already knew that, God willing I got the win which I did, we were going to fly out there,” recalled Catterall. “As soon as the Pacquiao fight was made Lee managed to organise going to the gym for the sparring.
“It was an experience that I am more than grateful for. That many people would have loved the opportunity, so to be picked to go over there was brilliant.
“There was sparring two or three times a week and they weren’t regular rounds. Rounds could last five minutes and one of the longest was eight minutes. He’s the guy who calls the shots, he turns up when he wants, says how many rounds he wants, how long the round is – you just play by his rules in that gym.
“It was a great experience but, like I have said to a few people, that gym is not really my cup of tea. You can see on the All Access programmes how busy the gym is and how many people are around. It is good to be in there and see bits of it, but everyone has got mad egos.
And yes, young Jack did manage to land some telling shots right on the Money, so to speak.
“Yeah, a few times, it felt good!”
A Mayweather forecast on future prospects or providing feedback on performances in sparring is not a currency the Money Man trades in, more just a touching recognition of efforts.
“No he is straight in to the gym and you don’t always spot him because there are that many people about. Next minute you are in the ring and they are all banging, shouting and hitting the canvas. You get you sparring done then he is out of the ring and straight onto the punchbag. He’ll show his respect and come over and touch your glove, but then he is working so we finish our training and leave the gym.
“You’ve got ten sparring partners and every fight for him is a big fight so he is that focussed on his fight I guess. He’ll show his respects and that’s all he can do.”
More to Catterall’s liking was his next sparring stop, when he took over from stablemate Jamie Cox as a punching partner for Saul Alvarez at a remote location in San Diego.
“Yes that one is a bit more isolated. I was with Lee and Jamie at the time and the opportunity came up to spar Canelo so, for a couple of weeks, Jamie went out to San Diego while I stayed in Vegas and then, once Canelo’s weight came down a little bit, I got the call to go and I got two weeks sparring with him. It was more my style, nice and quiet, they put us up on the beach where it was nice and secluded and in the gym there were three or four people so you got the sparring done and had a little chat afterwards, although he doesn’t speak much English.
“I couldn’t be more grateful really, I’ve been a professional three years now and I guess I owe it to Lee more than anyone for giving me the opportunities for the sparring that I’ve had and the way my career has gone.”
With a Money masterclass now in the bank, Catterall confirms that he too is prepared to go on the defensive when needs be to protect his features for a long career ahead.
“We do work on defence a lot. I don’t want to be in the sport to take punches – no money is enough money to get hit in the face!”
A sentiment Mr Mayweather would no doubt concur with.