The fight is billed as “Hate Runs Deep,” and the feud between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall has captured the imagination.

More than 11,000 will pack the First Direct Arena in Leeds, England, for Saturday’s grudge match, which is two years in the making. The bad blood is legitimate.

The two put hands on one another to announce the rematch, after little was settled when they met in February 2022.

Taylor retained the undisputed crown he then wore, but the decision was controversial and the relationship between the two, already frosty, deteriorated.

Catterall is ready for more hostilities this week, too.

“You go into any fight week situation like that when you’re training for months and weeks to fight somebody and you enter a room with his army, his team etc, you’ve got to be ready at any given moment knowing that,” said the 30-year-old from Chorley. “I understand that we fight on a Saturday night and it’s a gentleman’s sport but we’ve seen how me and Josh interact. We’re not the friendliest when we’re together, so you have to be prepared for everything.”

In 2013, a feud simmered between Carl Froch and George Groves, but they eventually settled their differences and since have completed many speaking engagements together and spent plenty of time together. Can Catterall envisage a thaw in tensions over time?

“Who knows? I’m optimistic,” he said with a sigh. “Never say never. Will we see eye to eye? Will we go on a tour in 20 years? Will we get the trilogy? I’m all about today and the future and what I can do. I look forward to fighting him. If he carries himself in the right way and handles defeat correctly, then maybe. But we’ll see.”

Catterall’s only loss in 29 fights was that dubious points decision to Taylor, who subsequently suffered the only defeat of his career in his next fight, against Teofimo Lopez.

Catterall has since notched decision wins over Darragh Foley and Jorge Linares. With Linares in particular, the build-up and post-fight was all about respect. There was no discord like there is with Taylor.

“It’s not really happened many times in my career – there’s always been respect,” Catterall said. “You might not, like, shake their hands at the weigh-ins or the press conferences, but there’s always been respect after the fights.

“With Josh, it’s been a different situation. It’s been a fight, we’ve boxed once, there’s a story behind it now. There was a long time before the first fight, going back and forth, two years after the first fight, a lot of things said, a lot of handbags thrown. You expect that needle, but again, it’s different with every opponent. I had a lot of respect for Linares, but you carry yourself a certain way, and I like to think I carry myself in the correct way, and I won’t take no s*** from Josh.

“But also, I don’t give it out if it’s not deserved.”

The aforementioned Foley said recently that Catterall looked relatively straightforward to face on tape, but when they got in the ring it was a different matter, and he praised Catterall’s skills.

Catterall agrees that he might not look like Sugar Ray Leonard, but he will be a hard night for anyone.

“Of course I believe I bring a lot of problems,” Catterall said. “I like to nullify my opponents. I like to keep things simple. I believe in my abilities, timing, reflexes, speed. I believe I’ve got the power to hurt Josh. I believe I do everything better than him. Maybe I’ve not had the right opponents or the fights that have shown me 100 percent, but I’ve had it in the past, maybe boxed 10 domestic opponents from Tom Stalker, Joe Hughes, Tyrone McKenna. Every one of them said they’d watched the tapes and they can beat me, but it’s different when you’re in the ring, you’ve got eight-ounce gloves on and [are facing] my timing, my distance, my defense. And I believe I can beat them all.”

There are not many knocks on laid-back pro Catterall, but one is that his style is not fan-friendly. But his effectiveness cannot be overlooked, nor should it. And, as Andre Ward likes to point out, not enough credit is given to the craft – of hitting and not getting hit – although Catterall admits that watching boxing through the lens of a fan, he appreciates a tear-up.

“It’s a difficult one, because I’m a boxing fan, and when I tune in to watch fights, in one breath I appreciate the boxing and the sweet science and I can sit down and I can appreciate that,” Catterall explained. “But if I’m with a group of lads and we’re watching it, they want to see the knockdowns, the blood, the cuts, both of them taking big shots, and I get that side of it as well. But again, I can only control what’s in front of me.

“I box how I box. Maybe sometimes it’s not the most exciting, but if I see my opportunities I’m gonna take them. But then after fights, I do get messages off people that I do look up to and respect in the sport, and I’ve had nice messages from fighters far and wide saying they appreciate and can see what I’m doing in the ring, and they’re the kind of things that I can take and say, ‘You know what? I take that on board and I appreciate that.’”

One such fighter is Shakur Stevenson, the lightweight champion whose contest with Edwin De Los Santos drew its share of criticism.

“He can probably appreciate that it’s not the most entertaining, but there’s thought behind what I’m doing,” Catterall said. “I’ve made it to 30 years old and I don’t believe I’ve been in a hard fight. I’ve come through most fights comfortably. I’ve had the odd little bruise but – touch wood – I’ve never been on the canvas, never taken any eight counts, never took any big punches. I’ve had longevity in the sport. I turned professional at 19, I was 30 last year, I look after myself in and out of the ring, and I box smart.”

Taylor-Catterall is a personal grudge that runs deep. That does not always lead to a firefight, but Catterall is hoping it leads to more big fights. Should he win, Catterall and Taylor will be 1-1, and a trilogy fight would likely be the centerpiece on the table. But Catterall is open to having his head turned by the belts should an opportunity arise.

“For me, I would like to fight for a world title and win a world title,” he said. “I understand it’s a business and that might be an option; financially it might make sense to fight Josh in a trilogy. Again, it’s another big fight. We’ve sold out an arena. If it’s a good fight, an entertaining fight and the fans want to see it again, then it’s something we will consider. But I’m excited to beat Josh and not have to speak about him for a little bit.”

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