'I'm going to let it all go': Terry Flanagan interview
Luke G. Williams
Manchester super lightweight Terry Flanagan tells Boxing Monthly he is happy to be the underdog in the World Boxing Super Series when he faces Regis Prograis on Saturday night in New Orleans...
When Terry Flanagan lost to Maurice Hooker in a WBO super lightweight title fight in June it brought to an end the longest current unbeaten run of a British professional boxer.
Although disappointed with his performance that night in Manchester, the 29-year-old former WBO lightweight champion admits that defeat may have been something of a blessing in disguise.
"Everyone kept saying: 'oh he’s the longest unbeaten British fighter', but that’s gone now," a cheerful and animated Flanagan explains, "Now I can just go in there, do what I can do, enjoy myself a bit and let my boxing flow a bit more than usual, rather than worrying about just getting the win. I’m going to get in there against Prograis and let it all go I think."
Flanagan admits that he had his eye on entering the WBSS even before the Hooker showdown. "It was always what I wanted," he says. "Whatever happened in the Hooker fight I was always going in, even if I won. Nothing changed. I wanted to get in and test myself against the best. I’m not in any worse a position really than I was before the Hooker fight."
The Crumpsall-born pugilist also argues that the challenge of the WBSS has revitalised his training and boxing. "I’m confident. For the first time in my life I’m excited for a fight. Usually I can’t wait to get the fight over with. But I can’t wait to get in there and prove a point and show people what I’m actually about.
"Usually it’s more like: 'I can’t wait to get this out the way and look toward to having a break at the end of camp.' It was like a chore going to the gym before but this time it’s different, I’m more than happy to be fighting. I’m looking forward to it, I’m excited, I’m in a good place at the moment and there’s no pressure on me neither with my unbeaten record gone.
"I’m buzzing really. It’s a tough fight against Prograis, I’ll have to be at my best to beat him. But I’m confident. For the first time in my life there’s no pressure on me. Everyone expects me to go in and get beat anyway so I’m just going to go in there and do what I can do and I’m very confident of winning. I know he’s a good fighter but I know what I’m capable of also."
Flanagan makes an apt point when he calls into question the hype surrounding Prograis, who is yet to even win a 'full' world title. "People are going on like he’s the favourite to win the whole thing," he says, disbelief registering in his distinctive Mancunian drawl. "Don’t get me wrong he’s a good fighter but up until three fights ago I’d never even heard of him! I’ve defended a world title five times. I’ve won a world title, he’s not. So of course I’m very confident. He’s still got to prove it.
"Don’t get me wrong, four or five fights down the line we might be talking about him as one of the next greats but at this moment in time, in my eyes, he’s not proven."
When asked for his assessment of the specific skill set Prograis brings to the ring, Flanagan's response is comprehensive and thoughtful.
"I think he’s very good. He’s strong, you can see that by his knockout record. He likes to take a shot to give a shot. And I think he can box a bit. He’s a good boxer, I think his boxing skills are under-estimated. He’s got a good jab and he’s talented. The people he’s fought he’s been stronger than so he’s not had to show it, but I think he can box.
"I’ve watched a few of his earlier fights and he did some nice things where he showed a bit of skill and a bit of class so I’m expecting a tough fight. He’s a good fighter but I believe that on my day I can beat any one in the world. I just have to turn up and do what I can do."
Flanagan also expresses himself unconcerned about the potentially intimidating prospect of taking on Prograis in his beloved New Orleans.
"I’ve always dreamed of boxing in America," he enthuses. "I feel like there will be less pressure on me. I can go over, enjoy myself and just let my boxing flow. All the pressure’s on him. He’s the one with the hype. He’s the one everyone’s talking about. He’s the favourite to win it. I believe if I go in do what I can do I’ll beat him.
"Boxing in America is something I’ve always wanted to do. And to do it on a big stage like this in the World Boxing Super Series, is great. It’s the best tournament in boxing. All the different promoters [have let their fighters in], and all the different fighters are fighting each other, which is quite hard to do sometimes. It’s one of the best things in boxing at the minute and I’m glad to be part of it."
Reflecting on the Hooker reverse, Flanagan is endearingly self-critical, identifying several reasons why his performance was below par.
"I’m not really one to make excuses. I don’t say things like oh, I got ill before the fight or I had an injury or this or that. But I was out for 14 months and then straight into a world title fight at the weight above. That didn’t help. It would have been better really to have a warm-up fight first, but it was either the Hooker fight or nothing.
"To be fair I fucked up. I came in way too light. I decided to come in and rely on my speed but I probably should have come in a bit heavier. I put five pounds on the weight, [I was] 10 [stone] 5 lbs]. In this Prograis fight I’ll be up above 11 stones. I’ll be looking to be big and strong. I won’t take my weight down as early as I did. It was my first time fighting up at ten stone and I believe I got that bit wrong.
"But you live and learn and I believe everything happens for a reason. So we’ll look at where the mistakes were made. They say that you learn more from a loss so we will correct those mistakes that were made first time around. I genuinely believed I would beat Maurice Hooker and I believe if I had a rematch with him I’d beat him.
"The rematch is first and foremost what I wanted but it didn’t look like it was going to happen. I was happy to go over to Texas where he’s from and fight him there. But listen that’s gone now. Now it’s one fight at a time, I’ve got Prograis now and that’s no easy fight. But I’m happy now and for the first time in my career I’m happy and excited. I’m loving boxing again.
"I’m looking to go and put a show on because I don’t want to be remembered for that bad night I had in Manchester. I’m feeling like I can’t wait to get in and get the gloves on. I’m excited."