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Terry Flanagan predicts a ‘hard night’ for Derry Mathews

10
Mar

The buildup to Saturday’s WBO lightweight title fight between beltholder Terry Flanagan and challenger Derry Mathews, which takes place in Liverpool, England, has not gone without incident.

Flanagan, who is rated No. 5 by THE RING at 135 pounds, suffered acute tendonitis in his left foot, which led to a postponement of the original Feb. 13 date, and Guillermo Rigondeaux’s withdrawal from a high-profile undercard bout with James Dickens has arguably garnered more headlines than the main event.

Regardless, we’re 48 hours away from an intriguing clash between U.K. rivals and Manchester’s Flanagan versus Liverpool’s Mathews could very well provide the compelling action that was lacking in Carl Frampton’s recent 12-round split decision victory over Scott Quigg.

“Derry is a top quality fighter,” said Flanagan with respect. “He’s been on and around title level for several years now and has won 10 (domestic or interim) championships as a professional. He’s dangerous, he can punch and he’s came from behind to win fights.

“But in my eyes, the only thing I really have to be wary of is Derry’s power. I can’t see him out boxing me or beating me on points, so he needs a knockout to win and that’s not going to happen.”

The southpaw style of Flanagan (29-0, 12 knockouts) could give Mathews fits and the challenger can be out boxed as seen in his July 2013 domestic clash with Tommy Coyle. Miles behind on the scorecards, Mathews pulled victory from the ashes with a spectacular 10th-round stoppage and he may need to produce something similar on his home turf this weekend.

Flanagan added, “My youth and determination will also be factors, plus my own punching power has improved. Derry has been around a long time and apparently he’s in the shape of his life, but he’ll need to be because this is going to be a very hard night for him.

“With that said, it’s strictly business. Because of the Manchester and Liverpool rivalry, I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I can’t wait for you to knock this guy out’ but Derry is a nice guy when you speak to him and we’re just building up a fight.”

In what might come as a surprise to some, Manchester is actually in possession of two lightweight world titles. Since Flanagan’s brutal second-round drubbing of Diego Magdaleno in his maiden defense, neighborhood rival Anthony Crolla has picked up the WBA belt with a shuddering fifth-round body shot knockout of Darleys Perez.

“I was there and it was a good fight,” acknowledged Flanagan. “I always felt that Crolla would win, after the way the first fight went (a controversial draw) and it turned out to be a very good win for him.

“I’ve got Derry Mathews to deal with first but I would be happy to sit down and discuss the (Crolla) fight afterwards. If I’m being honest though, I don’t think his team really want it and I expect them to stay on the WBA route for the time being. If it ever does happen though, it would be a great event for the city.”

Crolla, as it stands, will have to stay on the WBA route because unbeaten southpaw Ismael Barroso stands menacingly in his path as mandatory challenger. In December, the Venezuelan bomber scored a punishing fifth-round stoppage over another British lightweight stalwart, Kevin Mitchell, to earn that opportunity.

Flanagan said, “I believe the Barroso fight is on and I think Anthony wins that one. I know Barroso looked good against Mitchell but I don’t think he’s the biggest of lightweights and that win may have flattered him a little.

“Crolla has got a really tight defense and I think he’ll take what Barroso has and catch him coming in.”

So the pitch battle with a neighborhood rival remains a fantasy and Derry Mathews is the number one priority. The champion knows full well that a hungry and ambitious challenger cannot be overlooked and was typically modest when pushed for a prediction.

“I never pick a round but I’ll win,” said Flanagan. “If he’s hurt and keeps throwing back then Derry could get taken out but, fitness-wise, I’m ready for a hard 12 rounds and I’m sure he is too.”

Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

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