Friday, March 31, 2023  |



Terry Flanagan: A lonesome lightweight champion

Fighters Network

British lightweight Terry Flanagan reminds this reporter of an early version of Joe Calzaghe. He’s southpaw, he’s quick, he’s fit, he’s busy, he’s durable and he doesn’t do losing. At 31-0 (12 KOs), he never does losing.

Another similarity is that the young Calzaghe looked on helplessly as his division, the super middleweights, conveniently ignored him. For the most part, the Welshman traversed from one non-descript world title defense to another and was given very little credit at home or abroad.

With the exception of his second-round destruction of Diego Magdaleno, that is Terry Flanagan’s experience at this very moment. The WBO lightweight titleholder takes on Puerto Rico’s Orlando Cruz this Saturday in Cardiff, Wales, in what will be his fourth defense but the division is simply abuzz with other business.

Mikey Garcia challenges Dejan Zlaticanin for the WBC title in January. And what’s more frustrating is that cross-city rival Anthony Crolla who, like Flanagan, hails from Manchester, England, is almost certain to rematch THE RING and WBA champion Jorge Linares. Crolla lost a 12-round unanimous decision to the talented Venezuelan in September.

“Boxing is a funny sport,” Flanagan told “The thing is, the public don’t want to see that fight again. They think that Crolla should fight me, or that I should fight Linares. They’ve got the rematch, though, and I suppose I’ll just have to wait until after that fight.

“A fight with Crolla is unlikely. He was offered it a couple of days after he lost to Linares but chose the rematch instead. He obviously fancies his chances more in that fight than he does with me. If Crolla didn’t have Linares as an option, maybe the fight would have happened but that’s the route he’s taken.”

After being linked to bouts with Crolla, Zlaticanin and Juan Diaz, the 27-year-old Flanagan was finally matched with fellow-southpaw Cruz. The former world title challenger, who has moved up from junior lightweight for this bout, may not be at the top of Flanagan’s wish list but the Englishman refused to overlook him.

“I’ve had a look at Cruz and I’ve saw clips of him knocking out tall rangy southpaws,” said the 5ft 10 left-hander with a chuckle. “We have to be careful because he carries power and he can definitely punch a bit. It’s very important that we’re switched on come fight night.

“My last performance (UD12 Mzonke Fana) wasn’t me at my best and I need to show people what I’m capable of. I need to put on a big performance and box well because (Cruz) is a capable fighter. I need to be at my best to win this fight and I’m up for it.”

Providing Flanagan resists the temptation of moving up to junior welterweight, there is the very real possibility that the big fight comes against the unbeaten Felix Verdejo. The 23-year-old boxer-puncher, who also hails from Puerto Rico, is the WBO mandatory challenger but his title shot was delayed due to a motorbike accident in August.

“Verdejo is a great fighter,” Flanagan said immediately. “He’s young and up-and-coming. I watched him fight (Vasyl) Lomachenko in the (London 2012) Olympics and even though he was still young, he boxed really well.

“Since Verdejo turned pro, he’s looked explosive and he’s a good boxer. That would be a great fight for me but it’s a fight that I think I’ll win. I don’t think he’s ready for me yet but, ultimately, I think he’ll go on to prove himself.”

And what about the prodigal son of the lightweight division? Mikey Garcia ended a two-and-a-half-year layoff, in July, when he stopped former WBC featherweight titleholder Elio Rojas in five rounds. Bolstered by the quality of that performance, the American has canned the warmup fights in favor of a world title shot.

“I think Garcia has too much for Zlaticanin,” revealed Flanagan. “I’d jump at the chance to fight the winner of that one and I know Garcia is fond of the WBO belt, so I’m sure he’d take the fight. The winner of that fight, the winner of Crolla-Linares or (IBF titleholder) Robert Easter. Its unification fights I want.

“(Promoter) Frank (Warren) has promised me a big fight. He guarantees me that I’ll get a big fight early next year. He must have something in the pipeline, although he’s not giving too much away. He’s promised me, reassured me that these big fights will happen.”

And Flanagan, who is rated No. 2 by THE RING at 135 pounds, does not envision Cruz (25-4-1, 13 KOs) tearing up the script.

“I’m looking to go out there and get the job done,” he said emphatically. “I can’t be too reckless because Cruz can punch, so I’ll see what he’s got and go from there. We’ll set about him and put on a devastating performance like we did against Diego Magdaleno.

“Hopefully, this will be a good fight for the fans.”

Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

Struggling to locate a copy of RING magazine? Try here or…



You can subscribe to the print and digital editions of RING magazine by clicking the banner or here. You can also order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page. On the cover this month: THE RING 100.