By Danny Winterbottom
In front of a home crowd at the Phones 4 U Arena in Manchester on Saturday night, Ancoats lightweight Terry Flanagan 24-0 (8 KOs) will have the chance to lay claim to the vacant British 135lb title and fulfil a long held dream when he battles former champion Martin Gethin 24-5 (11 KOs)
It has been a long and arduous road to British title fight status for the 25 year old southpaw who has remained unbeaten since turning professional six years ago and held the English title but has found the route to the ultimate domestic prize a difficult one to negotiate and has been made to wait for his chance.
The Steve Maylett trained southpaw, known as ‘Turbo’, announced his arrival into the consciousness of the average boxing fan when he defeated Patrick Liam Walsh, Gary Sykes and Derry Mathews over three rounds to claim the Prizefighter: Lightweights title as a competition dark horse in 2012.
Prior to his televised gate crashing of the lightweight scene, this reporter had watched from ringside as he gamely protected his unbeaten record and English super featherweight title from the marauding attacks of challenger Troy James inside a boisterous Bowlers Exhibition Centre on a chilly September night a month before his Prizefighter success.
James, backed by a hefty knot of travelling support, was being out boxed and out thought by the nimble feet and accurate fists of Flanagan before an outpouring of wild aggression from the Coventry man midway through the contest tested the natural fighting instincts of the champion.
Flanagan had come through his first test with flying colours and proved his future in the sport belonged on a different plane. But despite his taming of an old former world champion Nate Campbell in Sheffield (Campbell retired with a damaged right hand in round four after being thrashed) on the undercard of Amir Khan’s victory over Julio Diaz in March last year his career has failed to develop much further until now.
“I can’t wait to get into the ring and win that title on Saturday!” Flanagan buzzed as he spoke to BoxingScene from his home this week.
When it became clear that Derry Mathews, who took the title from Gethin via a split decision in May, would be pursuing other avenues and had vacated his title Terry was left waiting to see who would be in the opposite corner on Saturday night.
“I’m happy the way things have panned out,” said Flanagan who found out three weeks ago that the Walsall man would be his opponent.
“Gethin is a tough opponent and that is what you want when you’re fighting for a British title because to be honest I was getting sick of facing journeymen when nobody in the division wanted to fight me.
“The fight between Martin and Derry was very close and when I heard rumours that Derry was chasing a European title fight I thought that Gethin would be given another shot by the board and I am looking forward to it.”
And what does Flanagan think of Gethin as a fighter?
“He’s strong but basic in what he does. Honestly I think I match up against any lightweight in Britain so I think I will handle him pretty easily and that isn’t being disrespectful to Martin it’s just the way it is.”
Without an opponent confirmed until late into his camp Flanagan was forced to enlist the services of several different sparring partners to mimic the style of Gethin but the Ancoats southpaw doesn’t envisage this small setback to cause any problems come Saturday.
“I was never really training specifically for Derry,” he admitted.
“We always get my boxing sorted in training first and then in the last week we have a look at the opponent and if necessary we adjust on the night.
“Martin comes to fight and against Derry he came on really strong towards the end of the fight because Derry tired but I’m not gonna slow down. If he thinks he can outwork me he is barking up the wrong tree!”
When BoxingScene spoke to Gethin earlier in the week the Walsall man was convinced that Flanagan, although unbeaten, would crumble under the weight of expectation when boxing in front of his home fans.
“At the end of the day when the bell rings it is me and him. This is the big fight I have wanted for a long time and you are gonna see the best of me,” Flanagan responded.
“I can’t get my hands on the title without going through Martin first so there will definitely be a fight on Saturday night, I can tell you that!”