If unbeaten ex British light-welter king Jack Catterall has any shortcomings as he storms towards a world title shot, lack of self-belief is clearly not among them.
The power-packed Chorley southpaw is currently ranked fifth and rising in the queue to face WBO boss Maurice Hooker from Dallas. However, this weekend, ‘El Gato’, still only 24, gambles all against a much avoided 6ft 1in southpaw, performing in their home city.
When said southpaw is 16-0-1TD ex amateur standout Tyrone McKenna and the home crowd hails from Belfast, the task clearly magnifies.
‘Beating Tyrone in his own backyard will just make the victory so much sweeter,’ quips the clearly non-plussed Lancastrian who has eliminated all 21 prior pro opponents, stopping a dozen (often in spectacular fashion!)
‘I’ve never been to Belfast so that’s a new experience but I’m very aware of how hostile the Fighting Irish crowd is. I don’t particularly want any cups of p*** chucked over me but I’m actually excited by experiencing their passion. They’re a proper fight crowd who’ll make a lot of noise and, whether that’s for me or their man Tyrone, it’s a good thing.’
It isn’t just the crowd that Catterall will need to conquer. ‘Bones’ McKenna is a six-time All-Ireland amateur champion and Junior Olympic medallist who has also swept all before him since shedding his singlet.
‘I’ve studied Tyrone a great deal yet I’ve never seen him in a fight against anyone good enough to cause him problems,’ claims the Jamie Moore coached, MTK Global managed bulldozer who flattened both of his previous 2018 opponents inside the opening frame.
‘We’ve been working on stuff we need to combat and expose the flaws McKenna’s known to have. He seems to keep his hands low yet his past history suggests that he’ll come to slug. Against me, that’s the wrong thing to do. Even if he TRIES to box me, he’ll soon return to type. I’ll not have to go looking for him.’
Just 5ft 7in on his tiptoes, Catterall might require a step ladder to locate McKenna’s whiskers but he has always exhibited a relentless and remorseless body attack.
‘I’ve been sparring plenty of tall southpaws for this,’ says joltin’ Jack, a former national CYP champ and England amateur international.
‘I’ve never been the tallest for my weight so I’m used to conceding. Anyway, Tyrone doesn’t make the best of the (physical) advantages he enjoys. He’s no Bradley Skeete. The way Tyrone fights, he’s not the hardest to find. Besides, Nathan Brough was the same size as Ty and what happened to him? Left snoozing! (Catterall iced the World Junior medallist with a single left hand back in 2014).
‘And I’ve beaten several southpaws before. Tom Stalker was a southpaw (stopped in eight). All our preparation has been geared towards southpaws. That said, if Tyrone was foolish enough to come out orthodox I’d quickly adapt. That’s one of my best qualities.
‘Tyrone’s a good fighter but he’ll find I’m better. Yes, he’s older and brings a better amateur pedigree but I’m the more experienced professional, I’ve come through trickier fights. I’ve better speed, power, timing. I’ve got it all.
‘I’ll not be remotely concerned about what McKenna tries to do. I’ll go into the fight and establish myself. He can react to me. If he wants a phone box war, he’ll get one. I’ll be too strong, too powerful and once I land one on his whiskers, he’ll not want to engage.
‘I’m fit and ready for 10 very hard rounds. I’m not daft. I know I’m not Gennady Golovkin and you have to have a strategy. But there’s a good chance I’ll stop him.
‘I’ll need to put on a masterclass to beat a Belfast boy in Belfast and that’s exactly what I intend to deliver.’