IN what was perhaps the most stylish and aesthetically pleasing main event seen in a British ring so far in 2023, as well as the most predictable, super-lightweight Jack Catterall outpointed Jorge Linares tonight (October 21) in Liverpool by scores of 117-11 and 116-112 (twice).
Together, they made quite the couple, as we suspected. All their moves were slick and considered and technically sound, and every feint, twitch and probe was instigated with a purpose and with a greater plan in mind.
Yet, irrespective of all that, the fight, as a spectacle, was as dull and as pointless as we feared it would be. Indeed, it was one of those fights in which the winner and the method of victory was no clearer or more meaningful in the 12th round than it had been in the first; that is, never once was there a doubt Jack Catterall, 28-1 (13), would triumph and do so via unanimous decision.
That he ultimately did, and with little difficulty, is a testament to his consistency and his dominance, but still the fight, a damp squib from its inception, sagged beneath the weight of its predictability. Which is to say, Linares, despite all the pre-fight claims and the big sell, looked every inch the 38-year-old former world champion on a run of three straight defeats.
The reality is, too, that whereas on previous visits to the British Isles Linares had taught lessons to Kevin Mitchell and Anthony Crolla, he had no such luck with Catterall this evening. In truth, one has to wonder how Linares would have fared against Catterall had he faced the Mancunian five or six years ago, back when he was a bit closer to his prime. While it is easy to say he would have fared better, and perhaps even won, it is also worth appreciating the fact that Catterall, on recent form, is a far more technically astute and classier operator than the likes of Mitchell and Crolla, and even Luke Campbell, whom Linares also defeated in 2017 in Inglewood, California.
In fact, though it remains to be seen what level Catterall can reach as a pro, it would be no stretch to say his ability, technically speaking, is at least on par with Linares, even with the Venezuelan at his very best. Now, of course, in 2023, there is no disputing this – nor, as proven tonight, any point in so much as having the argument. For the truth is, although Linares was full of ideas and feints in Liverpool, as well as the odd stiff right hand, he offered absolutely nothing in terms of a tangible, compelling threat. If anything, and this is being kind, the threat was all mental for Catterall; he knew, for example, he had to remain switched on for 36 minutes and respect the intelligence and counterpunching of his esteemed opponent.
That aside, though, it was mostly plain sailing for the Brit. He moved when he wanted to move, he punched when he wanted to punch, and any time he stepped on the gas and looked to apply an exclamation mark to a round, he did so without much in the way of opposition.
This happened most notably in round five, when he clipped Linares with a seemingly innocuous southpaw left cross and watched as Linares then staggered back to the ropes. Knowing his age, and also conscious of the fact he has been a pro for 21 years, the assumption at this point was that Linares’ punch resistance, never his best attribute at the best of times, had suddenly deserted him, and for good. Yet, to his credit, and no doubt aided by the fact the round was set to end, Linares made it to the bell and recovered well between rounds.
A similar incident then unfolded in the seventh, again following a left hand from Catterall, and this time Linares beckoned his opponent on, as if wanting more. More likely, however, Linares, now 47-9 (29), was simply frustrated; frustrated primarily because, unlike in his younger days, he was no longer able to react to an opponent’s combination by coming back with one of his own.
Not only that, Linares, in addition to jamming up and finding himself unable to pull the trigger, was also far easier to hit than normal. This became abundantly clear after eight rounds, when DAZN, the fight’s broadcaster, revealed Catterall had landed an impressive 57 of 112 thrown punches at a connect rate of 55 per cent. It was then in the eighth Catterall cracked Linares with three consecutive left hands in the final 10 rounds, after which he flurried away with some further shots to send Linares back to the ropes on the bell.
That, frankly, was a microcosm of not just the first eight rounds, but also the final four. Because it was that kind of fight in the end; seen one round, seen them all. Worse, it was, by its conclusion, the kind of fight that had you wondering, what exactly was the point? If, after all, the final outcome was precisely what 99% of the watching audience would have forecast beforehand, what did anyone, Jack Catterall included, learn from what transpired tonight in Liverpool?