By Scott Williamson: Light-welterweight Jack Catterall aims to thrust himself back into title contention when he faces former three-weight world champion Jorge Linares at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Saturday night. Catterall, who dominated Darragh Foley in May after a lengthy layoff, is heavily favored to beat Linares, who, at 38, is generally considered to be well past his best.
Only dubious scoring prevented Catterall from being crowned undisputed 140lb champion against Josh Taylor in Glasgow in February 2022. The Lancastrian, a huge underdog on the night, defied the odds and fought out of his skin, outboxing the champion and knocking him down hard in the eighth round. To widespread outrage and disbelief, Taylor received a split-decision victory, and a devastated Catterall stormed out of the ring in disgust following the announcement of the scorecards.
The rematch with Taylor failed to materialize after several postponements and months of fraught negotiations. While Taylor went on to lose to American star Teofimo Lopez, Catterall remained on the shelf for over a year until earning a lopsided win over Australia-based Irishman Darragh Foley in Manchester in May. Foley, a spirited but technically limited fighter, scarcely landed a glove on Catterall and tasted the canvas in the seventh and the ninth. All in all, the bout served as little more than an opportunity for Catterall to shake off any ring rust that might have accumulated during his period of inactivity.
Approaching the end of an illustrious but punishing career that began in 2002, it is unlikely that Linares will prove significantly tougher opposition than Foley. The Venezuelan veteran has claimed titles at featherweight, super-featherweight and lightweight. He burst onto the global scene by dismantling Oscar Larios for the WBC featherweight championship in 2007. A masterful boxer, he endeared himself to British fans with classy performances against Kevin Mitchell, Anthony Crolla, and Luke Campbell. Even in recent years, he has shown glimpses of his past ability by testing pound-for-pound talents Vasyl Lomachenko and Devin Haney.
At the peak of his powers, Linares would be more than a match for Catterall. However, he is currently on a three-fight losing streak, with his last defeat coming against relatively unheralded Armenian Zhora Hamarasyan in December. His record now stands at 47-8. Six of those losses have been by stoppage. Never renowned for having a strong chin, Linares has largely relied on slick footwork and sharp counter-punching for success. But now his legs are not what they once were, and he will probably struggle to keep the younger, larger man at bay.
Catterall, while not known as a power puncher, is a career light-welterweight. Linares, on the other hand, has campaigned as low as super-bantamweight. The natural size advantage of the Englishman may be telling, and a knockout would represent an eye-catching statement to the rest of the 140lb division. With next to no one giving Linares a chance, Catterall must not only win but win in impressive fashion if he is to galvanize public demand for the elusive Taylor rematch or secure another title shot in the near future.
However, Catterall insists that he is not overlooking Linares and expresses admiration for his opponent’s achievements. In a pre-fight press conference, he said: “I think we all know Linares is a future Hall of Famer, and I wouldn’t show the disrespect to any opponent by talking about any other fights right now. I said to Sam [manager Sam Jones] and the team around me, we don’t talk about any fights – it’s 100% focus on Linares. We pay him that respect, and we train hard to win that fight on October 21st. I think that’s why the fight is exciting – Linares has been over to our turf, my turf, and always picked up the victories. I’m next up now to defend our turf and pick up the win.”
Linares, for his part, stressed his determination to continue competing at the highest level of the sport: “This is an amazing dream for me. I always wanted to go back to the UK to make another amazing fight with the best 135lbs or 140lbs fighter. The best option was Jack Catterall. The motivation that I have right now is the same as it was seven or eight years ago. This is the moment. This is the most important fight. I want to make an amazing show for the people to enjoy and to enjoy myself. We’re going to make a beautiful fight. This is the most difficult fight of my life. I need to win this fight.”
Linares was undoubtedly an exceptional talent in his prime, and he will be remembered fondly when he retires. But age is unforgiving and, at 38, overcoming a man who many regard as the true light-welterweight champion of the world seems an impossible task. Though he must resist complacency, Catterall should win comfortably on Saturday night and look to advance to bigger and better fights in 2024 – against Taylor, Lopez, or the winner of the upcoming WBC title fight between Haney and Regis Prograis.