Flanagan planning to demolish UK lightweight scene
Terry Flanagan (29-0, 12 KOs) has a boxing bucket list and part of that will be ticked off when he meets Derry Mathews (38-9-2, 20 KOs) on 12 March in Liverpool.
The WBO lightweight champion, who makes the second defence of his title, will walk in to a North Western lion’s den when Manc meets Scouse at the Echo Arena, live on BoxNation.
Winning a big fight in an opponent’s backyard, competing in America, unifying the lightweight division and winning a world title at a different weight are some of the other items on ‘Turbo’s’ bucket list. Those, as he told Boxing Monthly, are for the future.
“For now I’m happy to clean up at domestic level,” said the 26-year-old.
“I asked for Derry and they come back and he said ‘yeah’ and accepted the fight. Fair play to Derry he’s getting his world title shot. It’s going to be a good night for boxing.”
Indeed. With an all-British world title fight, the genius of Guillermo Rigondeaux, a couple of tasty domestic title fights and the debut of Zolani Tete under the Frank Warren promotional banner, it promises to be a terrific night of boxing with a little bit of everything.
The show had been originally scheduled for 27 February but an injury to Flanagan has just made the intrigue last a little bit longer.
It was an additional break for Flanagan who had a flat-out 2015. The champion told BM he had not taken a break from the gym since 2014 so the five months off, since he last fought, has been welcome, despite Frank Warren's hope that he would have appeared on his 19 December show last year in Manchester.
“It’s been boxing, boxing, boxing and I didn’t feel mentally ready for the 19th,” said Flanagan.
“It’s not the physical side, it’s the mental side because it’s been boxing, boxing, boxing. My mind’s now fresh. I’m working on some things in the gym for the fight. On 12 March you’re going to see the best performance of my career so far.”
That would have to top his two-round demolition of mandatory challenger Diego Magdaleno last October. A night when Flanagan hit the turbo button and simply overwhelmed the Californian who suffered only his second professional loss in 30 fights, (the other to Rocky Martinez at super-featherweight in 2013).
Mathews presents a more unique challenge for Flanagan. A never-say-die 32-year-old who will be having his 50th fight and his first ever world title contest.
“I’ve watched him throughout his career,” Flanagan said of the challenger.
“He’s a good fighter. He’s got a tremendous heart and never gives up. He’s a warrior and it’s going to be a hard fight. It’s a risky fight but there’s no easy world title fights. We know what to expect with him and he knows what to expect with us. He knows he’s in for a fight. He’s a very good fighter.”
Boxing Monthly asked the world champion if he believes that this fight is a step up from Magdaleno.
“You could say that,” he replied. “You wouldn’t say that on paper but we know what Derry’s about and he’s most dangerous when his back’s to the wall. He’s been the underdog many times in his career and come through it. Everyone will want Derry to win for the fairytale story but it’s not going to happen. There’s only going to be one winner and that’s me.
"It’s a shame he has to fight me because I would have liked to have seen him win a world title for the career’s he had. But it’s not going to happen against me. I think it could be the end of his career when he fights me.”
Mathews may have had nine defeats but all-British world title affairs can take on a personality of their own and create an atmosphere and occasion that is unmatched across the world.
A closer look at Mathews’ record sees two of those losses (one to Flanagan in 2012) occurring during the three-round helter skelter Prizefighter format. Three others came at the hands of more than capable operators Stephen Ormond, Emiliano Marsili and former world champion Gavin Rees. The Derry Mathews of 2009 that lost to Harry Ramogoadi in Liverpool doesn’t exist anymore.
“I know it’s going to be a tough fight,” said Flanagan.
Flanagan is as much confident as he is cautious. BM did not hear a tone of complacency in the champ’s voice. He is fully aware of what Derry Mathews can do when you’re least expecting it.
“Like I say, Derry’s most dangerous when his back’s to the wall and when he’s under pressure. In the Tommy Coyle fight and (the first) Anthony Crolla fight it was looking like he was going and ended up pulling it out the bag. I’ll be the coolest man in the arena on the night when he’s ready for going.”
Built more as a man of action than a man of words, Flanagan did have a message for other British 135lb rivals like WBA champion Anthony Crolla and Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell:
“I’m coming for them, coming for everyone in Britain.”
Sounding like Manchester’s answer to Wyatt Earp, Flanagan put his fists back in their holsters before adding:
“I’m starting it off, I’m starting the ball rolling. I’m getting the first one. I got offered Derry. I could’ve got them to bring a foreigner in and beat him up in a voluntary but I want to prove I’m the best in Britain.”