Flanagan outpoints Mathews to retain title, Tete wins bantam debut
British fight fans were hoping for some memorable two-way action in Terry Flanagan’s second WBO lightweight title defense but his 12-round unanimous decision win over countryman Derry Mathews in Liverpool, England, on Saturday was a mildly entertaining tactical affair.
The official scores were 115-112 and 117-110 twice.
Flanagan, who is rated No. 5 by THE RING at 135 pounds, took a while to find some rhythm but the Manchester man did pull away in the second half with sharp work out of his southpaw stance. Mathews, who was challenging for the title in his home city, was always game but struggled to make a consistent impression on the quicker and more agile fighter.
“I always expected Derry to get into the later rounds but nobody is going to be scared of me if I’m boxing like that,” said a deflated Flanagan, when interviewed by BoxNation in the U.K. “I enjoyed the atmosphere but I switched off at times and could have made the fight easier on myself.
“It wasn’t the best of camps due to the tendonitis I had (on the left foot, and which forced a postponement).”
A right hook to the head and straight left to the body were sharp punches from Flanagan early but Mathews kept his distance and quickly found the range for his own right hand. Some of the action was messy and Flanagan was guilty of several low-blow infringements, which drew scorn from referee Phil Edwards.
By the midway point, Flanagan’s right jab was doubling and tripling into the face of his opponent and he began to pile up points with straight combinations. However, some flagrant inside forearm work in the eighth led to a point deduction from Flanagan who was then forced to up his game through the championship rounds.
He did and the winner was never in doubt.
Flanagan (30-0, 12 KOs) picked up the vacant WBO title in unsatisfying circumstances when fellow southpaw Jose Zepeda retired after two rounds with a dislocated shoulder last July. However, he was scintillating in his second-round destruction of Diego Magdaleno in October and can perform better than he did tonight.
Promoter Frank Warren said, “If we can’t get Anthony Crolla then I like the Jorge Linares fight for Terry. On his game, I think he’s the best lightweight in the world.”
Mathews (38-10-2, 20 KOs) is almost an institution in the boxing hotbed of Liverpool. As brave as they come and with the lives of a cat, he has continually bounced back from defeat to prove his detractors wrong. There is no shame in falling short against Flanagan and the 32-year-old, who stays in terrific shape year round, is almost guaranteed to return.
Flanagan weighed in bang on the lightweight limit of 135 pounds with Mathews at 134.25.
Seasoned southpaw Zolani Tete stayed busy with a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Santos Gonzalez in a bantamweight bout which was scheduled for 12. The official time was 0:37 seconds.
Tete, who is currently rated No. 4 by THE RING at junior bantamweight, dropped Gonzalez with an almost invisible right hook counter in the second before treating fans to a virtuoso display of technical skill.
Gonzalez had nothing to offer on the outside but was picked off and punished whenever he tried to close the gap on the rangy South African, who is a former IBF titleholder at 115 pounds.
Another right hook stunned the Mexican in Round 7 before a sickening right uppercut floored him heavily in a corner. Gonzalez rose at the count of nine but the referee intervened when Tete sent him reeling with an accurate straight left to the chin.
This was Tete’s debut at 118 pounds but the hard-hitting lefty has discussed the possibility off coming all the way up to 122, name-dropping the likes of Guillermo Rigondeaux, Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg as future targets.
Whatever division Tete (23-3, 19 KOs) selects can only benefit from his presence. The wonderfully talented 28-year-old recently signed a promotional agreement with Queensberry Promotions in the U.K.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing