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.’
TYRONE McKENNA: “IF CATTERALL WANTS A WAR, WE WAR!”
Belfast beanpole Tyrone McKenna believes that a clinical victory over world-rated ex British champion Jack Catterall at The Odyssey Arena in his home city this weekend, could catapult the former Junior Olympic medallist into a world title gig with Dallas’s angular WBO king Maurice Hooker.
‘Hooker v McKenna. Freak against Freak! I’m just concentrating on Saturday but, yeh, let’s bring ‘Mighty Mo’ to Belfast. He’s definitely beatable,’ states the 6ft 1in southpaw – known as ‘Bones’ – who is unbeaten in 17 (one TD) since kickstarting his pro innings on the US East Coast back in August 2012.
‘Once I beat Catterall and establish my name, I want the big fights as soon as possible. I’ve been pleading for these types of fights for a while. I’m ready to take on the world!’
Eight months back, the former six-time All Ireland amateur king was still to venture beyond round six in a slow burning career. However, subsequent gritty and educational 10 round wins over French nugget Renald Garrido and 17-1 city rival Anthony Upton have plugged the gap.
‘You could throw a stone from my garden and hit Upton’s house so there was a lot of west Belfast pride involved; a bit of needle. There’s no way I could’ve shown my face around here, if I’d lost to him,’ says the swift and slingy sharpshooter.
‘Anthony is a tricky, sharp switch hitter, a very good boxer but, on the night, he just wanted to move. It was a bit frustrating because I trained very hard and sparring went unbelievably well. Still, I demonstrated a bit of power to drop him in the ninth and won comfortably enough on the cards. It told me a lot about where I’m at, in fighting terms. He’d beaten me in the amateurs but I got my revenge where it mattered.’
Nevertheless, the crossroads clash against 21-0 ‘El Gato’ Catterall, ranked #3 by the WBO, represents another sizeable step-up.
‘Basically, I’ve had to step in because that mouthpiece Ohara Davies didn’t have the balls. One hundred per cent Davies can have it next, after I win on Saturday. I’ll gladly end his career,’ says the 28 year old Ulsterman who is managed by MTK Global and coached by Danny Vaughan in Glasgow.
‘Jack and I have sparred in the past and we get along, talk quite often on social media. As a fan, I enjoy watching him fight. He’s always entertaining and he’s a solid all-rounder. It’s sure to be a tough night for me.
‘But it’s a test I’m more than ready for. Since switching to Danny two years ago, I’ve grown as a fighter. He’s got me training very hard and eating right. My defence is much improved and I’m finally sitting down on my punches.’
The odds setters enlist McKenna as a generous 4-1 outsider, remarkable given that the southpaw enters with a six inch reach height advantage and enjoys home court……and there’s no home advantage quite like a Belfast home advantage!
‘The size differential makes no difference. I have to punch down but I had well over 100 amateur contests and encountered every style and size. Some highlight that I’ve ‘advantages’ but I’ve never been in the boxing game to jab and move. I love to entertain the fans,’ claims ‘The Mighty Celt’.
‘Boxing a fellow southpaw won’t be an issue either. I’ve done most of my sparring with Tom Stalker, Jono Carroll and Sam Maxwell, who switches. Sometimes I prefer a southpaw for a change.
The collision with Catterall represents Tyrone’s sixth successive start in the Ulster capital.
‘There’s zero pressure on me. Jack holds the belt, he’s the odds -on favourite, he’s the one saying I’m ‘easy work’,’ he says.
‘I’ve fought before at the Waterfront and SSE in Belfast and the fans give you a big, big drive. Our fight is likely to be just before Mick (Conlan)’s big homecoming so the hall should be rammed and I guarantee it’ll daunt Jack Catterall. I believe it’ll affect his performance and inspire me.
‘I’m fit and ready to rumble. If Catterall wants to war, we war!’ He’s talking of making it a hat-trick of one round wins in a row so maybe he’ll steam out for an early ‘kill’. However, if he tries to box instead, I’ll outsmart him. I’ve far greater amateur experience and I’d pitch my boxing brain against anyone else’s in the division. Either way, baby!
‘Jack says he’s not underestimating me but he keeps talking about future fights with Ohara Davies and Maurice Hooker. Hold on …..! First, he’s got to get past a 6ft 1in southpaw who’s a nightmare for any one.
‘I’ve faster hands, faster feet and think speed will be a key factor. With 8oz gloves on, a stoppage is possible. I won’t be looking for it, but I certainly punch hard enough. If I execute my game plan, I expect it to be a comfortable night for me.’