By Danny Winterbottom
Martin Gethin 24-5 (11 KOs), Walsall’s former British lightweight champion, has told BoxingScene that he feels ‘like an underdog in every fight’ as he prepares to face Manchester’s unbeaten Terry ‘Turbo’ Flanagan 24-0(8 KOs) for the vacant British 9st 9lbs title at the Phones 4 U Arena on Saturday night.
Gethin, who lost his title to Liverpool’s Derry Mathews on points in May following almost 12 months out of the ring with a perforated eardrum, will be the away fighter for the second occasion in a row when he steps out of the changing rooms on Saturday night but he believes that his edge in championship experience and the weight of expectation on the shoulders of Flanagan will see him prevail in a highly anticipated bout.
“The fight is on a big show, in a big arena in front of a large Manchester crowd and for a big title so he (Flanagan) will definitely be feeling the pressure when the bell rings because most people expect him to win the fight.
“I don’t mind being the underdog at all because I love the sport and whatever happens on Saturday happens,” said the humble 30 year old.
When Mathews took the title from Gethin in a very closely contested fight, one that Martin believes he ‘did enough to win’ at the Liverpool Olympia, Flanagan was named as the mandatory challenger and the fighter Derry must face next or be forced to vacate his belt.
Despite Derry Mathews vs. Terry Flanagan being officially announced as part of the bumper bill in Manchester headed up by the now postponed Tyson Fury-Dereck Chisora rematch, rumours in the trade suggested that Mathews was in search of bigger fights, as well as suffering from a damaged hand, and wouldn’t be defending his title against the Manchester man who had outpointed him in a Prizefighter event in 2012.
(Mathews has since announced that he has signed a deal with MGM Marbella and will be managed by Daniel Kinahan)
Those rumours proved to be true as Gethin stepped in with three weeks’ notice after a handful of other opponents had been mooted and he gets an opportunity to win back the title he won in January 2013 when he stopped Ben Murphy in nine rounds at the Town Hall, Walsall.
“I always keep myself in top shape and I was ticking over in the gym when I got the call,” Gethin said.
“I had heard rumours that when Derry beat me he wouldn’t be defending the British title, which I thought was strange, because he wanted a European title shot but I don’t know how true that is.”
In Flanagan, Martin faces a volume punching southpaw with good movement and accuracy, who hasn’t yet tasted defeat in a 24 fight career under the guidance of Steve Maylett at his Ancoats gym.
Despite those impressive attributes there is a feeling that we don’t quite know how good Flanagan really is yet and Gethin has mixed in the better company overall.
“We will find out on Saturday if he can raise his game,” Gethin said.
“He (Flanagan) is a really good boxer, I can’t fault him. But what I would say is he hasn’t yet been tested at the highest level by someone who will put him under a lot of pressure so you can be rest assured that I will test him on Saturday.”
Gethin was given a harsh lesson when he stepped up beyond domestic level after his own disappointing performance against talented Panamanian, Ammeth Diaz in an IBF world title eliminator in May 2013 ended in defeat.
Fighting in front of his home support inside the Town Hall, Walsall, Gethin was outclassed and stopped in seven rounds by Diaz in a contest that made him reassess the way he prepares for fights.
“I took my eye off the ball and was more concerned about how many fans would be there to watch me in a big fight,” Gethin admitted.
“The only difference I noticed from domestic level is that he (Diaz) was very strong and could punch but I had him hurt around the fourth I think, and I believe if I had remained focused on the fight I could have beaten him.”
On Saturday Gethin will box at the Phones 4 U Arena for the first time but he was all set to face another Manchester fighter, Anthony Crolla, in defence of his then held British title on the undercard of the Carl Froch-George Groves 1 card at the venue until a perforated eardrum curtailed that particular contest.
“I picked up the injury in sparring and I remember asking the doctor to have a look at it and he told me it wasn’t far off healing so I started sparring again but the injury flared up.
“I hated having to pull out of the fight so close to the date because I knew how much training we had both done. It irritated me to be honest but it had to be done.”
A classic crossroads fight between a hungry unbeaten contender and an equally hungry former champion awaits us on Saturday.
Flanagan has time to regroup if he should lose. For Gethin, at the age of 30 and with a recent history of injuries, victory is paramount if he is to continue to operate at the top of the domestic game.