THERE was plenty of disgruntlement on New Year’s Eve when we announced that Jack Catterall was our choice for Male British Fighter of the Year. ‘This has to be a joke,’ was a common reply.
Our reasoning, which was not designed to make anyone laugh, is fairly simple: We felt he comfortably defeated Josh Taylor over 12 rounds and should have been named as the world super-lightweight champion; if the beyond controversial verdict had gone his way, I doubt so many would have found our choice so bothersome. It was not, as some have suggested, a sympathy vote. We made our decision purely on his performance inside the ring.
For further context on Catterall’s effort, he was ranked number 10 in the world when he challenged Taylor, a big favourite and widely regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. It should have been a monumental, life-changing victory.
‘This is an insult to more deserving fighters’ was another response to our choice. Those deemed to have been slighted by our decision were, in no particular order, Tyson Fury, Sunny Edwards, Joe Joyce, Leigh Wood and John Ryder (that plenty also mentioned Natasha Jonas clearly hadn’t seen that we named her as our Female British Fighter of the Year). So if we leave Jonas out of it, for what we hope are obvious reasons, let’s examine each of those commonly mentioned in an effort to further explain Catterall as our winner.
Fury knocked out Dillian Whyte in six rounds in April and then stopped old rival Derek Chisora in December. When defeating Whyte, Fury was the world heavyweight champion taking on his No.3 contender (and WBC mandatory). That he won in one-sided fashion was very impressive but he was widely expected to win – which is in sharp contrast to Catterall’s perceived chances before he challenged Taylor (Catterall was a bigger underdog than Whyte, in fact). Fury-Chisora III was a grotesque mismatch and does not strengthen his case.
Sunny Edwards scored two typically majestic points wins over Muhammed Waseem and Felix Alvarado. Edwards was ranked two at flyweight when he beat Waseem (seventh) and Alvarado (10th), so therefore did exactly as expected when he won his two outings in 2022. Neither performance, in our opinion, surpassed the efforts of Catterall, who exceeded all expectations against Taylor.
Leigh Wood’s come-from-behind win over Michael Conlan was frankly awe-inspiring. But in Conlan, he was fighting someone not ranked in the world top 10 (Wood was 10th himself heading in). Though more dramatic and thrilling than Catterall’s showing against Taylor, Wood won a bout many were declaring a 50/50 encounter at the opening bell.
Joe Joyce had a stellar year, trouncing Christian Hammer and thumping Joseph Parker. The win over Hammer was wholly predictable so shouldn’t, we believe, play a huge role in the reckoning. It was the knockout of Parker that really caught the eye. Ranked sixth to Parker’s fifth heading in, Joyce won a stirring bout that was the product of top quality matchmaking. Like Wood against Conlan, Joyce won a ‘pick-em’ bout in exciting fashion.
The case for Ryder is another compelling one. His close points win over Danny Jacobs in February can be compared to Catterall’s mission against Taylor in that Jacobs was highly ranked (third) and Ryder was not in the Top 10. Yet as many felt the American was harshly judged as those who agreed with the verdict after 12 rounds (BN had Jacobs two points up, compared to the four-point advantage we tallied for Catterall over Taylor). It was also hard to split the two in the bookmakers’ odds beforehand – unlike Catterall, Ryder was only a narrow underdog. Ryder’s win over Zach Parker in November was somewhat anticlimactic, when his opponent retired with an injured hand ahead of round five.
Catterall, therefore, remains our British Fighter of the Year. He should have toppled one of the sport’s best (and genuine) world champions following a performance that we thought would live long in the memory. Ultimately, the selection of Catterall was not a joke nor a statement of fact, it was merely our opinion.
As always, we salute the efforts of all boxers in 2022 and wish each of them well as we head into the New Year. And we thank you, BN readers, for your continued support – that our opinions can still generate so much interest is appreciated.