M&S BANK ARENA, LIVERPOOL — As is sometimes the case in the emotionally raw hours after a big fight, talk of retirement dominated the conversation following Jack Catterall’s unanimous decision win over former three-weight world champion Jorge Linares in Liverpool.
For Catterall it was a threat of what he wants to brutally inflict upon bitter rival Josh Taylor, should their long-awaited rematch finally come to pass in 2024.
In Linares’ case, it was a decision made by a great fighter with nothing left to prove, visibly content to walk away on his own terms.
“This is the last fight. I’m super happy. I don’t care if I lose or not,” said the 38-year-old, who signs off with a record of 48-9, having suffered a fourth straight defeat as Catterall was awarded verdicts of 117-111 and 116-112 (twice) on the cards.
“God gave to me a lot of opportunities in my life, [to be] a three-time world champion.
“To finish like this, showing the people and who I am, how I finished the fight by decision is for me the most important thing. I came here to enjoy.”
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In Catterall’s dressing room, the victor cut a relaxed figure, although such Corinthian ideals about the joy of sporting competition were far from his mind.
He wants Taylor, he wants revenge and he wants it next.
“The dream’s always to win a world title but it’s personal between me and Taylor, so let’s make that fight,” he said.
Their February 2022 meeting has gone down in infamy after Catterall dropped the then undisputed super lightweight champion and appeared to have done more than enough to earn victory, only to hear a split decision go against him.
Taylor took to social media during and after the Linares fight, mocking Catterall’s inability to secure a stoppage against a veteran foe, who he wobbled badly with a pinpoint left towards the end of round five.
Jack couldn’t finish a Sunday roast !
— Josh Taylor (@JoshTaylorBoxer) October 21, 2023
“It’s irrelevant what he says,” Catterall responded. “He got beat up in his last [against Teofimo Lopez] fight and I’m going to send him into retirement.
“I beat him, Lopez beat him so that might be the case [that Taylor is in decline]. As much as we’ve gone back and forth, the respect has always been there about what he’s achieved in his career.
“He’s had a lot of tough fights earlier on, so the miles may be on the clock now.”
Linares insists there is no more distance to travel after a nomadic career that has seen him box in Japan, the United States, Mexico, Russia and his native Venezuela.
However, box-office UK fight nights such as Catterall and Taylor’s proposed catchweight rematch, will always hold a special place for “El Nino de Oro” after his thrilling 10th-round stoppage of Kevin Mitchell in 2015 and subsequent two-fight series against Anthony Crolla.
Linares dethroned WBA lightweight champion Crolla in a pulsating clash in September 2016 before producing a masterclass to dominate their return back at the Manchester Arena.
Crolla was ringside on Saturday night, having overseen duties in the corner as his younger brother William won his second professional fight on the undercard. Linares is more than ready to join his friend on the other side of the ropes.
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“I love boxing, I love to be in the gym. I can help [Linares’ trainer] Ismael Salas in the gym, maybe open a gym myself,” he said. “I can work in TV, I can do whatever I want. But I want to rest right now a little bit
“To come here [to the UK] three times. Kevin Mitchell and two times Anthony Crolla. Also I fought [Vasily] Lomachenko.
“No matter if I lost or not, I made a beautiful story. I made beautiful fights all my life. That’s why I finish super happy. I don’t need to show anybody who I am.”
Linares departs with the admiration and gratitude of fans and his legacy secure. Catterall’s position in history remains up for grabs.
It’s a place he wants to consign Taylor to and don’t expect their reunion to carry any of the feelgood vibes that Linares exuded with the rest of his life ahead of him.