How Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez helped Jack Catterall find his way

Jack Catterall might be the lesser-known name as he prepares to fight Scotland’s undisputed world champion Josh Taylor on Saturday, but he has shared the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

Catterall sparred with two of the best boxers in recent history within a week of each other in 2015 and says the experience was invaluable.

The 28-year-old hopes to follow in the footsteps of his hero Ricky Hatton who won his first world title after beating Australian-Russian Kostya Tszyu — one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters — in one of boxing’s biggest upsets in 2005.

Catterall (26-0, 13 KOs), from Chorley, Lancashire, challenges Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs), 31, from Edinburgh, for the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO world junior welterweight titles at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, in what is a rare chance to become an undisputed world champion.

Despite no previous world title attempts or top-level wins on his record, Catterall does have the enviable experience of working with American Mayweather, pound-for-pound king at the time, before his megafight with Manny Pacquiao.

Catterall, a southpaw, was brought in to mimic the style of Pacquiao in sparring sessions at Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas.

“It was massive for me when I sparred Mayweather,” Catterall told ESPN.

“I turned pro at 19 without the amateur experience of fighting in different countries so I had to learn from sparring champions like Amir Khan, Kell Brook, Floyd, Canelo and others. I must have been in my 20s when I stepped into the gym in Vegas to spar Floyd and it was hard because there were hundreds of people there, all with their phones out and making a lot of noise.

“But I kept being invited back and I soaked up every bit of experience sparring with such a great champion. I did about six weeks of sparring, I was one of ten sparring partners there three times a week for the Pacquiao fight. Some of the rounds were seven or eight minutes long and they don’t call it the ‘Dog House’ for nothing!

“I was proud that I got to stay in there because there were some fighters that got sent home,” he added.

If the experience of sparring with the world’s best was not enough, as soon as he finished there Catterall travelled to San Diego to spar Alvarez — the Mexican who is one of boxing’s biggest stars and arguably pound-for-pound No 1.

“Straight from working with Floyd I went to spar with Canelo in San Diego, ahead of his fight with James Kirkland. It was Canelo’s final few weeks of prep and I took more from that experience because the gym was quieter and Canelo felt massive in the ring, it brought my development on more,” he said.

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Catterall has had to show a lot of patience with the progression of his career to get his first world title shot three years after he was made mandatory challenger for the WBO belt. Since then, he has had just three low-key fights and Taylor, who unified the four belts in a convincing points win over Jose Ramirez in May, is a big favourite to make a fourth title defence.

“It was frustrating while waiting, I was always stuck between a rock and a hard place and it just seemed like a constant battle of waiting and waiting,” Catterall said.

“Terry Flanagan took my mandatory position for the WBO title when he moved up a division, that was one delay, then there was the unification fight between Ramirez and Viktor Postol that trumped me. That fight got delayed because of the [coronavirus] pandemic and when Ramirez won, the undisputed fight with Taylor trumped me again.

“During that time I thought ‘do I risk taking a fight that is fringe title level, or fight someone of low calibre and underperform or get injured?’.

“The only light at the end of the tunnel was that I was still mandatory challenger. After waiting three years it has paid off, all that time staying in the gym, but it hasn’t been easy dealing with it. There would be days where I would be turning up to the gym with no fight date and no money coming in.”

Catterall, who is trained by Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis in Manchester, has yet to face an opponent anywhere near the calibre of Taylor, who is coming off a career-best performance against Ramirez, whom he dropped twice.

But Catterall is drawing inspiration from his belief he can emulate the success of his hero Hatton, also from north-west England, who unified two versions of the world title and got stopped by Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao before retiring in 2012.

Hatton pulled off the unthinkable in his first world title fight in 2005, and Catterall is dreaming he can pull of an upset too to silence Taylor’s home crowd.

“I saw Ricky fight a few times in Manchester and there have been comparisons between us,” Catterall said.

“We both won the Central Area title in our ninth fight, both won the British [junior welterweight] title and then vacated it and Ricky was the underdog when he fought Kostya Tszyu, and I feel like I’m in a similar position with Josh Taylor.

“It’s hard to compare [Tszyu-Hatton vz. Taylor-Catterall] because there are different variables and there are still questions over my world level calibre as I’ve not been there yet.

“Taylor is a complete fighter, but we’ve seen things in the Regis Prograis and Postol fights that we can work on.”

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