Amid the stars, prospects also glitter...

Luke G. Williams
07/04/2017 9:09pm

Click here for John A. MacDonald's interview with Terry Flanagan
Click here for Chris Williamson's preview of Liam Smith vs Liam Williams
Click here for James Oddy's preview of Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jason Sosa
Click here for Ron Borges' feature explaining why Lomachenko is probably the best boxer in the world
Click here for Luke G. Williams' summary of Lomachenko's professional career so far
Click here for Michael Montero's preview of the weekend's action

It's a theme I've returned to again and again on the Boxing Monthly website for the past few months - namely that 2017 has been an excellent year for the sport, with a raft of quality match-ups, as well as several unexpected twists and turns in the narratives of pugilism's many competitive weight classes.

There have been several weekends on which there has been top-quality action on both sides of the Atlantic and this Saturday sees another tantalising 'double-header', with Frank Warren's impressively stacked 'A New Era' card at the Manchester Arena launching the veteran promoter's ambitious new link-up between Boxnation and BT Sport.

Meanwhile in the early hours of Sunday the man who may well soon be seen as boxing's undisputed pound for pound king - Vasyl Lomachenko - once again takes to the square circle to display his virtuoso skills, in a contest that James Oddy has previewed for BM online.

Headlining Warren's Manchester card is Terry Flanagan - the proud holder of the longest unbeaten run in British boxing right now. The likeable and ambitious Crumpsall-born lightweight is the current WBO title holder but promotional loyalties have largely prevented him from showcasing his skills against truly top level opponents.

On Saturday though, he faces arguably his most accomplished foe yet in Petr Petrov, a teak-tough Russian currently ranked at number eight in the division by Boxing Monthly. The Madrid-based 34-year-old has lost just twice since 2007, and those reverses came against class operators in the form of Dejan Zlaticanin and Marcus Maidana (the latter fight, Petrov's only stoppage defeat, was in the higher super lightweight division).

Although not a huge puncher, Petrov is an able and accomplished pressure fight who should bring the best out of southpaw Flanagan, who usually rises, or falls, to the level of his opponent.

Steve Maylett, Flanagan's trainer, expanded on this theme this week when he told BT Sport: "For some reason, [Terry] doesn’t always look easy on the eye on fight night. Sometimes he switches off if it’s getting easy, but top champions who spar with him in the gym all sing his praises. Petrov will really test him and that will bring out his best, you’ll see. [Terry has] got incredibly fast hands which the commentators seldom pick up on. That’ll serve him well if and when he moves up in weight. He’s at his best when he’s counter punching off the front foot because it stops opponents coming forward."

With Petrov likely to be the come-forward aggressor, Flanagan will need to be at his sharpest, but I see him as favourite to pick the Russian off, gradually wear him down and win via a deserved points decision, or even a late stoppage. In doing so, Flanagan can hopefully propel himself towards the even bigger fights he clearly craves - certainly with the upper reaches of the lightweight division boasting Jorge Linares, Mikey Garcia and Robert Easter Jr there would appear to be no shortage of potential opponents although, sadly, an all-Manchester showdown with Anthony Crolla now looks more unlikely than ever, given Million Dollar's double reverse at the hands of Linares.

Although Flanagan understandably headlines in his hometown, the pick 'em scrap between 'Liams' Williams and Smith might well end up stealing Saturday's show. Most bookies can barely separate them, although Chris Williamson has had a go in his must-read preview of this intriguing clash. To add a further fascinating facet to this contest, on Friday night Smith failed to make the super welter limit, meaning that only Williams can lift the WBO interim title which is at stake.

As if that wasn't enough in the way of entertainment, the rest of the card at the Manchester Arena is also positively brimming with exciting talent, much of it currently unbeaten, including super lightweight Jack Catterall. although explosive Manchester cruiserweight Jordan' Trouble' Thompson is most likely to get the home crowd excited.

C45HaZRVcAAtDtOThere are also two professional debutants on show with vastly contrasting amateur records - national hero Nicola Adams, the two-time Olympic Gold medalist, makes her flyweight debut at the age of 34 - an exciting development which should guarantee more exposure for the fast-growing world of female boxing - while 19-year-old Deptford heavyweight 'Dangerous' Daniel Dubois, who was being groomed for future Olympic stardom until he signed with Warren, also makes his pro bow. Dubois is a raw but exciting talent who some say has already troubled IBF champ Anthony Joshua in sparring.

With so much talent in the ranks, further world-title action in the coming weeks including Ricky Burns vs Julius Indongo and Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko, and the Warren-Hearn rivalry seemingly pushing both promotional stables to make bigger and better contests, it's certainly an exciting time for British boxing.

My advice is to sit back and enjoy yet another weekend of top-quality boxing action.