Plus, Wood KOs Warrington, Tszyu returns and Bazinyan beating
This article originally appeared in Steve Wellings’ Substack
Jack Catterall must be relieved that he finally has his name mentioned alongside an opponent other than Josh Taylor. Stepping out of the Scotsman’s shadow, Jack over-delivered in defeat. However, he could never nail down that second attempt to finish what he’d already started. After Catterall laid out the plans, Teofimo Lopez chewed up and spat out the remaining scraps of the ‘Tartan Tornado’.
The Chorley man is moving on, headlining on October 21 in Liverpool (live on DAZN) against three-time world king Jorge Linares. Much has been made of Jorge Linares going 3-0 on his previous visits to the UK. A late stoppage of Kevin Mitchell and a pair of points wins over Anthony Crolla displayed the prowess of a hit-and-move master.
An emotional Catterall thought he had done enough (Bad Left Hook)
However, those wins were a different version of Linares. The current incarnation has lost his three outings, including a worryingly one-sided points defeat in Russia to the kind of unheralded opponent he would’ve danced around in his prime.
This confirmed that even the dangerous version who fought Devin Haney in 2021 has further diminished. The facts all point to conservative Catterall having more than enough to defeat the veteran Venezuelan, likely on points or via stoppage if the southpaw can put his foot down and carve up Linares’ notoriously papier-mache complexion.
With victory for Catterall almost assured, it will be interesting to see what Eddie Hearn does with him next. This fight does little for his world standing, and unless the Taylor rematch gets resurrected, it could lead to another spell of inactivity for a man who has been absent for far too long. It’s debatable whether such a rusty specimen would be able to reproduce the performance of a lifetime should that chance arrive.
Hopefully, Catterall is now settled, having hooked up with Sam Jones and Matchroom after a wandering spell with first MTK and then Probellum (no relation). This all came after a fruitful spell under Frank Warren, which saw Jack burst onto the scene emphatically, bludgeoning touted former amateur Tom Stalker in 2014. The road has been long and winding since then.
Meanwhile, at his peak, Jorge Linares was a phenomenal combination puncher who mixed speed and skill with must-watch vulnerability. Some flashes aside, only the latter really remains. A first defeat on British soil is all but expected for the man who can’t quite bring himself to hang them up.
BUATSI AND AZEEZ BID FOR BOXING BRAGGING RIGHTS
Battling Catterall for attention on the same night, Joshua Buatsi and Dan Azeez put their unbeaten records on the line to roll the dice in London. Sky Sports are televising this WBA light-heavyweight title eliminator.
Azeez has travelled the traditional route and relinquished his European title in July to concentrate on the road to world honours. While Buatsi is the classier operator, boasting Olympic pedigree, Azeez fights with pace and intensity. He will put it on his opponent, and it’s up to Buatsi to discover some killer instinct and find a way past that aggression.
Friendship will go out of the window for 36 minutes or less, as a shot at Dmitry Bivol is on the table for the victor. Bivol has already defeated Craig Richards, and promoter Eddie Hearn was offering up a straight shot to Azeez before his rival Ben Shalom cemented this eliminator. It’s hard to see either man toppling the majestic Russian boxer. The winner of this fight at least deserves the chance to try.
The undercard sees a spicy British cruiserweight affair between Mikael Lawal and Isaac Chamberlain. Lawal is undefeated, while Chamberlain’s career promised so much before inactivity crippled his progress. Michael Hennessy Jr was down to fight Harley Benn but now finds himself pitched against Joe Laws instead. That one has war written all over it.
WOOD ON TOP AFTER WARRINGTON WALLOPING
Those two bouts will do well to match the energy that surrounded last weekend’s all-British world title affair. At the moment, I’m reading the thoroughly enjoyable Matthew Saad Muhammad biography, written by Tris Dixon, donated to the Wellings bookshelf by Dominic Henry (shout out). Known as the Miracle Man, Saad would afford Leigh Wood an approving tip of the hat if the fantastic Philly firebrand were still around today. Wood is Saad’s kind of fighter.
Coming back from a ropey start, eventual victim Josh Warrington also displayed his own brand of toughness and tactical adaptability. Dishing out a beating on Wood, the Nottingham man offered another Rocky moment to flatten Josh with a southpaw right hook.
Between this matchup, the Michael Conlan fight, plus the excitement of the first Lara encounter, whatever DAZN are paying Wood, they need to offer an increase, as he single-handedly brings the entertainment time and again.
After the contest, Warrington thanked his fans while publicly assessing his future. It’s fair to ask, how many fights does either man have left after their respective performances? Given his struggles to make the weight, Wood will inevitably move up and eye a crack at Joe Cordina.
That in-house contest would be easy enough to make. It’s also a shame, as a fight between Wood and Luis Alberto Lopez would’ve been a barnburner. Wood will no doubt seek a couple of hefty paydays as his career draws close.
On Wednesday evening, Erik Bazinyan scored the statement victory his carer badly needed, knocking out Ronald Ellis in the sixth of a scheduled 10-rounder Ellis. Bazinyan is top five ranked by all four sanctioning bodies and further enhanced his standing with this standout display.
Both men thrive on aggression, but it was Ellis being backed up for the most part. Ellis has a good jab and counter right hand, and he also boasted about being Canelo Alvarez’s sparring partner, leading Bazinyan’s team to suggest that he was entering with a sparring partner mentality.
Ellis enjoyed spells of success in the first and fifth rounds. That was of little consequence when Bazinyan uncorked back-to-back right hands (the second of which landed high on the head) in round six to drop Ellis heavily. Following a count and brief inspection of Ronald’s faculties, referee Alain Villeneuve waved it off, much to the disgust of the loser and the delight of the winner.
Bazinyan later stated that he did not wish to be caught up in a Canelo holding pattern and would happily face fellow contenders like David Morrell and Caleb Plant if necessary. A welcome comment from a man in a potentially stagnant division.
On that same card, fast-moving Iman Khataev picked up another stoppage win. The 29-year-old Russian is based in Australia while doing some work in the gyms of Montreal. Well-travelled and well-schooled, Khataev is not hanging around.
He’s already scheduled to fight in November on a Steve Claggett undercard and possibly the Beterbiev-Smith card as well. Keep him busy and build him up swiftly is the strategy.
Tim Tszyu keeps busy with the first defence of his inherited WBO super-welterweight title in Queensland at the weekend. Tszyu has already beaten Tony Harrison and Carlos Ocampo in impressive fashion this year. Speaking last week, Harrison described how Tszyu’s speed and reactions came as a surprise in their bout. Brian Mendoza upset Sebastian Fundora last time out but will do well to last the course against Kostya’s offspring, given his swift improvements.
About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 400 eps. 20 years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief video script writer for Motivedia channel and BN+. For enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.