The best way to understand Jack Catterall’s attitude towards boxing is to watch him at work.
In the ring, Catterall cuts a cool, composed figure and two weeks out from his British super lightweight title fight with Tyrone Nurse, the 24-year-old from Chorley sits in a changing room at Manchester’s Bowlers Exhibition Centre laughing and joking with his gym mates whilst he wraps his team mate Raza Hamza’s hands. The relaxed atmosphere and no-frills surroundings perfectly match Catterall’s approach to the sport. Forged in the small halls but primed for arenas, the experience Catterall gained along the way helped build him into the calm, business-like fighter he is today.
“Everybody wants to fight on the big shows with cameras there and bigger crowds,” Catterall (18-0, 10 KO’s) told 32Red. “It is nice to be on the big stage but you do get a bit more of a sentimental feeling on the little shows though and you get to see all the trickery and bulls**t that goes on too. It doesn’t really bother me too much though really.
“I’m glad I boxed on the small shows. It’s good to learn your trade and be able to fight without pressure. Look at somebody like Conor Benn. He’s been on the big shows and everybody is watching everything he does. I know people are watching you from the start on the little shows but I guess there’s less pressure when you aren’t going out worldwide.
“It helps you appreciate the big shows more. I felt it was the perfect time for me when I got on to a bigger stage. If you start off there, it can be too much too soon and you have to learn your trade with everybody watching.”
The small hall scene provides an invaluable learning curve but it can be a tough grind and there is the suggestion that Nurse spent too long plugging away on it before a chance to star on the bigger stage presented itself. The British champion from Huddersfield has tried to make himself more entertaining but does get hit more than he did in his time as an elusive slickster.
“He probably did [hang around a bit long]. If you look on his record you can only really look at his last seven or eight fights. Before that, he fought a lot of sh*t. A lot of four rounders. You start to wonder why he had so many four rounders against nobodies. What was he doing? I don’t know why it took him so long to get to the level of fighting he’s at.
“I don’t think about him too much. He’s looked good in some fights and he might get hit a bit more than he used to but it really doesn’t matter to me. I hope he’s trained good for this fight anyway.”
Tall and rangy with a relaxed, loose style, Nurse seems to present a fairly unique set of challenges for his light welterweight rivals. Catterall and Headley have done their due diligence and in Bradley Skeete and Bilal Rehman, they sourced the ideal sparring partners for the job. Catterall may have a no-nonsense approach to business outside of the ring but that changes once he ducks between the ropes. There is a brutal artistry to the way ‘El Gato’ calmly manoeuvres his opponents around the ring, probing with a ramrod jab before exploding with thudding attacks. His trainer, Haroon Headley, has likened Catterall to a leopard, stalking his prey from the shadows before pouncing and dragging them away. It is a style which has already reaped rich rewards against taller opponents as he blitzed Nathan Brough and Thomas Stalker on his way to prominence.
“We’ve been quite lucky with how other peoples fights have landed and we’ve done well to get some good rounds in. You’re never gonna get somebody who’s the exact same style as your opponent – he ain’t going to find anybody who fights like me either – but we have been lucky and I’ve had plenty of good rounds with tall, awkward, orthodox fighters. I’ve had good preparation.
“I think I’d prefer to fight somebody shorter but I don’t mind. I’ve always boxed well against taller people so it’s something to get stuck into.”
Nurse is the perfect opponent at the perfect time. If Catterall can prove his credentials and get past the man from Huddersfield, he will be ideally placed to capitalise on Terence Crawford’s decision to wove up to welterweight and vacate his host of super lightweight world titles.
“This is a really good fight. There’s a carrot dangling for both of us but it’d be very foolish to look past Tyrone. I know it’s going to be a tough fight so I’m going to focus all of my energy on it and then, God willing, I’ll come through this one and with all the world titles being scattered, I’ll be in a position where I can get my hands on one of them.”
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