Terry Flanagan is ‘Turbo’-activated for Petr Petrov showdown
It is often said that it’s harder to stay at the top than to get there.
Unbeaten WBO lightweight titleholder Terry “Turbo” Flanagan hasn’t been struggling during combat, per se, but maintaining a mental edge has proven troublesome. The Manchester southpaw dazzled in his first title defense, a second-round stoppage of Diego Magdaleno, but was far from happy with his form in decision wins over Derry Mathews and faded former titleholder Mzonke Fana.
Unification fights were not forthcoming and Flanagan found it hard to stay motivated. A standout performance was required urgently and, last November, the 27-year-old stylist produced. Former featherweight title challenger Orlando Cruz was floored twice and taken out in the eighth-round and Flanagan could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“I was able to make a statement and stop him,” said Flanagan who is rated No. 2 by THE RING at 135 pounds. “I didn’t rush it and probably could have got him out of there earlier. It was good to go a few rounds but, as soon as I upped the pace, that was it. I was always in control and that was a much better performance.
“In the two fights before that one, I didn’t feel myself but, during the build-up to Cruz, I felt great. I could have been in there with anyone and I would have been confident of winning.”
Flanagan (32-0, 13 knockouts) was supposed to beat Cruz and, this Saturday, at the Manchester Arena, he is supposed to beat Russia’s Petr Petrov. The oddsmakers prefer Flanagan’s youth, speed and energy to the 34-year-old challenger’s aggression and experience. The home fighter is a prohibitive 4/1 favorite.
“Petrov is a good fighter,” countered Flanagan instantly. “He’s fit; he’s busy and he can punch a bit. He’s been around top level for a while, so we know what he brings. He’s tough and he won’t be fazed by coming over here. He’s also saying he’s in the best shape of his life. I’m looking forward to it and it’ll be a great fight.
“We’ve had the right kind of sparring and we’re happy with the way camp has gone. We’ll use our skills because, nine times out of 10, that’s what gets you through. We’ve done all the hard work; we’ve got the toughness and we’ll be able to dig deep when needed. I think we’ll be alright.”
Petrov (38-4-2, 19 KOs) is rated No. 10 by THE RING and he is a much better operator than the odds suggest. The former junior welterweight title challenger is powerful at this weight and will constantly be in Flanagan’s face looking to cause damage. Anything other than a sharp performance from the home fighter could put an end to some well-laid plans.
Those plans include unification fights with some of the very best fighters in the world. Last month, Flanagan watched the superb Jorge Linares retain THE RING Magazine and WBA lightweight titles with a repeat unanimous decision victory over neighborhood rival Anthony Crolla.
“Linares was too crafty and a level above,” recalled Flanagan. “I thought the first fight was close and Anthony pushed it early on. Linares, in my opinion, won that first fight in the final straight. In the rematch, (Crolla) didn’t put it on him enough. Linares found his rhythm early and outboxed him. He knew what to expect and was a lot more confident this time.
“There is no doubt that Linares is a great fighter. He’s classy but styles make fights and I think I have the style to beat him. There are people who will look at his performance against Crolla and say I have no chance but it’s a completely different fight. Linares has vulnerabilities.”
The battle everyone wants to see is Linares against new WBC lightweight titleholder Mikey Garcia. Flanagan, while appreciative of that, is still eager to pick up more titles at 135 pounds before he is forced to move up to junior welterweight.
“I’m open to any fight that my team puts in front of me,” Flanagan reiterated. “I’ve been calling for unification fights for a while now. I’m going to outgrow this weight division soon and I won’t be here for much longer.
“First and foremost, I’ve got to come through this Petrov fight. He’s been made my mandatory challenger and it’s a tough one. If I come through it, I want Linares, Mikey Garcia or (IBF titlist) Robert Easter. Or, if the public wants it, and the money is right, then I’d take on Crolla because I would be very confident of beating him.”
Flanagan is as laid back a fighter as you could ever come across. During this interview, however, there was more of an edge to him. His title is at stake but so are all the dream nights against the lightweight crème de la creme. Coupled with that, the clock is ticking on his ability to make 135 pounds safely.
Despite any anxieties, Flanagan’s confidence remained visceral.
“Petrov gives a lot back, so the rhythm of this fight will be better and I box well, off-rhythm,” he said. “I think it’ll be a great fight but, if I hurt him at any point, then I’ll take him out. If not, I’ll win comfortably on points.
“It might be close at the start. I could lose a few rounds because he is a tough fighter and I need to expect that. I’m not going in here thinking this a walkover by any means. I’m just confident that once I get my boxing together and work things out that I win the fight.”
Also on the card, junior middleweight contenders Liam Smith and Liam Williams will clash and double Olympic gold medalist Nicola Adams and former Team GB heavyweight Daniel Dubois will make their highly-anticipated professional debuts.
Tickets for April 8 priced at £50, £70, £100, £150, £200, £300 and VIP £500 are available from Eventim www.eventim.co.uk Tel: 0844 249 1000 and the Manchester Arena www.manchester-arena.com Tel: 0844 847 8000.
Tom Gray is a U.K. Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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