Home Interviews Q&A interviews with Thomas Stalker & Jack Catterall ahead of their clash

Q&A interviews with Thomas Stalker & Jack Catterall ahead of their clash

Credit: Frank Warren

Liverpool light-welterweight Thomas Stalker was once the world’s top ranked amateur lightweight but knows, at 30, there’s little margin for error if he’s to repeat the trick as a professional.

The 2012 Team GB Olympic skipper – who struck gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and also medaled at both the European and World Senior meets – jettisoned a British title eliminator in favor of an audacious attempt to crash the world rankings.

This Saturday at the Echo Arena in his home city, ‘The Captain’ collides with fast rising Chorley tyro Jack Catterall for the vacant WBO European crown. Both are unbeaten in nine pro fights and the trade is evenly split as to who shall triumph in what is sure to be a compelling boxer versus puncher duel.

Stalker and Caterall both held Q&A interview sessions with Glynn Evans in advance of their showdown

Tom Stalker Interview

Thus far you’ve had nine fights, nine wins, two stoppages. How do you assess your pro career to date?

It’s a very tough way to make your living. In the amateurs you just throw punches at a high pace for three rounds. And for three rounds, I was very good. My work rate was generally too much for the opposition.

I’m a realist. I know that I might not yet have made the impact expected of a former world amateur number one or the impact of my fellow Olympians such as Anthony Joshua or Luke Campbell. But I’m pretty pleased. I’ve been a pro for just 20 months and, though I was out injured for eight of those, I’m already up at ten round level. In nine fights, I’ve only had three rounds taken off me on the official cards.

I’m never going to be a one punch take out merchant but Paulie Malignaggi won several world titles without a dig. I may lack power but I gain in speed and fitness. I’ve trained very hard to do the longer rounds and I’ve developed my style to get the best use out of what I’ve got.

Okay, a few have dragged me into a fight and the reviews haven’t always been great but, even then, I’ve been able to show how tough I am, how good my chin is. Lately, I’ve been working on trading when I want to trade, not when they want to trade.

But I’ve done all that’s been asked of me, had me hand raised every time. I’m a winner. By foul means or fair, I’ll get the job done. I’ve got the tools and I’m a very, very determined person.

This’ll be your first start above eight rounds. How have you prepared for the extra demands? 

Whether it’s 10 rounds or 12, it’s all in the head.  Obviously I’ve done longer sparring sessions. For a three round amateur bout you can pretty much go on auto pilot but a professional title fight requires a lot more thought and concentration.

I’ve had an eight week camp. I had ten weeks for my fight before but probably over did it. I’ve been fortunate to have sparred 30 rounds in Birmingham with (British welterweight champion) Frankie Gavin, one of the best southpaws out there. Terry Needham, who knocked out Brett Beadon recently, is another southpaw who’s been putting it on me and I’ve also sparred Dec Geraghty, a top Irish kid. Prep has gone great and it’ll all come right on the 25th.

Your 21 year old opponent Jack Catterall is also undefeated in nine and coming off a vicious one shot knockout over ex World Junior medallist Nathan Brough. What’s your take on him?

I’ve done my prep on him and he’s a very good kid; great power and timing. He also appears a nice lad. He took my mate Nathan out with one left hook last time and Nathan has a good chin so Jack can certainly bang. I know Catterall’s camp think they’ll catch up with me late but I don’t think his big punch alone will be enough to beat me.

Jack’s certainly looked very impressive as a pro but I’d not have taken it if I didn’t think I’d win. It should be a great fight for the fans.

Catterall looked savage dispatching Brough. What makes you so sure that you can stand up to his power?

Despite fighting at the very highest level, I wasn’t stopped once as an amateur. In fact, in the only fight that I was dropped, I got up to beat my German opponent and win gold at the European Unions. I know I can really dig in from first round to last. I’m a very tough person.

You were initially matched with Swansea’s Chris Jenkins in a British eliminator on this bill. Why did you opt to veto that in favour of the Catterall clash?

Both Catterall and Jenkins are both very good fighters so it isn’t a case of ducking anyone.

It’s just the Jenkins fight was only an eliminator, not a final eliminator and I’d probably have had to wait at least another six months for a crack at the title. The Catterall fight will catapult me up the (WBO) world rankings when I win. My team decided it also made better business sense. The reward was better.

Catterall is a massive step up for me as a pro and I refuse to look past him. I know several people view me as the underdog going in but I know what I can do. I could take the Chris Eubank Jr route and stop a load of Latvians but I sell a lot of tickets and, at the end of the day, the fans want to see great fights.

Unlike yourself, Catterall doesn’t have the experience of fighting before big, hostile crowds and you also have home court. How crucial might that become?

I’ve sold over 100 ringside seats which is fabulous but it doesn’t really matter who’s sitting outside the ring. Sometimes that just leads to you getting carried away.

I’d fight and beat Jack Catterall anywhere in the world. I’ll only be listening to Seamus (Macklin, his coach).  Jack also has a very experienced and well respected coach in Lee Beard to steer him through. Location won’t be the deciding factor.

Finally, why do you believe that your hand will be raised when the fighting is done?

Because I live the life and I’m always giving 100% in the gym. I’m not bad mouthing anyone and I’m sure we’ll put on a great fight on a great show.

Fight or box, Saturday night, I’ll be the one controlling. I’ll box my fight and try to win every single round.  Even his trainer Lee Beard concedes that I’d probably beat him ten bouts out of ten in the amateurs. I’m far sharper and have the better boxing brain.

Jack Catterall Interview

In the summer of 2012 Liverpool’s Tom Stalker was rated as the world’s number one amateur lightweight and skipper of the Team GB boxing squad at the London 2012 Olympics. Conversely, Chorley’s Jack Catterall was a student at Preston College who’d never ventured past the English ABA quarter-finals.

Two years on, the pair collides for the vacant WBO European light-welter title at Liverpool’s Echo Arena this weekend and, remarkably, the bookies can barely split them.

Whilst Stalker is more adept technically with his years of top level amateur experience, the 21 year old Lancastrian, known as ‘El Gato’, has ripped up all before him in the pros, culminating in a sensational demolition of Liverpool’s previously unbeaten Nathan Brough last July.

We’ll certainly discover a lot more about both principals when they swap leather in a real cross roads affair this weekend.

Your one punch second round blow out of former World Junior medalist Nathan Brough last time was a huge upset. How did you execute it?

I had a full nine week camp to plan for Brough. Going in, I felt very, very strong. I’d been handling far heavier guys in sparring so I think I have a strength advantage over anybody at 10stone.

The plan was actually to win the rounds and systematically break Nathan down with body shots later in the fight. All my previous four stoppage wins as a pro had come from body shots.

I was very conscious not to rush and make mistakes because obviously Nathan is a very credible fighter. He’s a 6ft 1in tall southpaw who really times that long right jab so I couldn’t just run at him. We expected the first two or three rounds would be very difficult. Lee drilled it into me that I’d need to stay patient.

But we’d sparred previously and I felt far stronger than Nathan so was very confident that I’d beat him if we both had the 8oz gloves on. So it proved.

Surprisingly, Nathan brought himself to me. I didn’t need to go looking. I clipped him right on the button and immediately felt the snap on the end of the punch. I knew from his eyes that I’d connected clean and he weren’t getting up. It was the best shot I’ve landed in my boxing career…….until the next fight!

Rewind two years and Stalker was captaining Team GB at the 2012 Olympics whilst you were still to debut as a pro and had never made it past the English ABA quarter finals. It’s amazing how you’ve caught him up so quickly.

Yeah, but people really have to realise that amateur boxing and professional boxing are two entirely different sports. Back in the amateurs I had loads of distractions. I was studying at college and had plenty of other stuff going on. Boxing wasn’t my sole focus. Now I totally live the life.

Thanks to Lee and his association with several top international fighters over in the States, I’ve been privileged to have been actively involved in whole camps for world title fights, sparring great champions like Joan Guzman and Argenis Mendis. I have to say that the methods Lee preaches, really suits my style.

When Frank (Warren) and Lee gave me this opportunity I jumped at it. I’ve don’t have anywhere near the amateur pedigree of a Tom Stalker or a Nathan Brough but lately it’s all coming together for me as a pro. The timing is right for me.

You’ve yet to travel beyond round eight. Is that a concern going into your first 12 rounder?

Not at all. Tom would be horrible to box over just six or eight rounds but the longer fight will certainly work to my favour.

My coach Lee will play a huge role, as always. He’s valued far more highly overseas than in the UK but he’s not bothered about publicity.

He’s got so much knowledge and we’ve been focused on game plans every step of the camp. I’m very comfortable with him. He’s always very calm and straight forward. He’s got a very good eye from the corner and often sees shots I don’t.

As I say, I’ve been in and around four or five world championship camps with other fighters that Lee coaches. I do all the same sparring and roadwork. I’m constantly in great shape.

For this fight, we’ve prepared at home, at Ray Hatton’s gym in Stockport. I took a fortnight off after stopping Brough but I’ll have had nine solid weeks and I’ve been sparring Cecil McCalla, a 19-0 welterweight from Baltimore. I’m more than ready for a long fight or short.

What’s your analysis of opponent Tom Stalker? 

Though Tom was rated number one in the world in the amateurs I’ve never been impressed with him as a pro so far. His style isn’t really suited to the pros and he’s struggled to adapt.

When the match was first proposed I didn’t hesitate for a second. It’s exactly the type of test I need to progress forward in the sport. Once Lee said he felt I was ready, I just went for it.

Tom clearly trains very hard and consequently has a very high work rate. He can throw lots of shots early on. But, even at six round level, he blows his tank and gasses. Unlike me, he’s not really hurt anyone of note in the pros yet.

Obviously he’s got plenty of skill but not as much as me. When we’ve shared a gym, he studies me, tries to learn off me. He’s got a good chin but he’s needed it because he regularly gets caught clean, lifting his head. He squares up a lot and makes mistakes. If I’m patient, I’m confident that I’ll be able to pick the right punches and capitalize.

When I shift through my gears I’m far more explosive than Tom and, if I hurt you, I’ve a vicious finishing instinct.

How do you expect the fight to pan out and why will you prevail?

I think our styles will contrast to provide a great fight for the fans. I’ll be looking to win every round clearly. My greater strength should definitely pay dividends in a longer fight. He’s turned 30 now.

Though I certainly won’t go swinging for a quick knockout, I expect to win by stoppage in the later rounds. I’m younger, hungrier, a level above him. I’m very confident in my ability.