By Terence Dooley
Frank Warren’s huge bill at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night features a slew of title fights (eight in total) as well as two WBO title bouts.
Britain’s Liam Smith (20-0-1, 10 KOs) and Terry Flanagan (28-0, 11 early) meet John Thompson (17-1, 6 stoppages) and Diego Magdaleno (28-1, 12 KOs) respectively in the two bill toppers. All four fighters vowed to emerge victorious during the final presser for the show, which will be televised by BoxNation here in the U.K.
Smith and Thompson vie for the vacant WBO light-middleweight belt. The New Jersey-based 26-year-old told Smith, 27, that he will have to look at the visitor’s Instagram account once the dust settles on their encounter.
“The belt’s coming back to America,” he said. “It’s the last you’ll see of the belt unless you follow me on Instagram. I’ve come to get my belt.”
Smith, though, believes he has the edge and will become the first of the four fighting brothers to bring a world title back to Merseyside. “I’m privileged to be on one of the best cards of the year,” stated Smith.
“I’ve seen enough of John to know I can take the best of him. I think we’ll have a new world champion on Saturday.”
Terry Flanagan makes the first defence of lightweight title that he won when Jose Zepeda had to withdraw after the second round of their vacant WBO world title fight due to a dislocated shoulder. “Turbo” was frustrated as the fans in attendance due to the unsatisfactory conclusion to his first world title bout, but he left the ring with the belt around his waist and has told BoxNation’s Steve Lillis that he will repeal the challenge of Magdaleno.
“I thought I might have to travel, but we’ve got it here in front of my own fans in Manchester,” he said. “I watched Ricky Hatton box here 10 years ago against Kostya Tszyu and didn’t think I’d be here boxing for a world title.
“I’m good enough. I’m starting to believe in myself a bit and will show people what I’m about on Saturday night. The world title speaks for itself.”
Flanagan believes that is the best fighter in a packed domestic lightweight division, arguing that he broke away from the pack when winning a world title and vowing to make a successful first defence to prove that he belongs at that level.
“I do, yeah,” he said when asked if he thinks he is the best 135lber in the country. “I’m the only one with a world title, others have tried and failed—I won it on my first attempt. He’s ranked Number One with the WBO, he’s with Top Rank—they don’t just sign anyone—so it’s going to be a hard night, but more so for him.”
His challenger was equally as bullish when addressing the press for a final time; the 28-year-old paid tribute to his opponent before pledging to take the belt back home to Las Vegas.
“This is a fan friendly fight, two bad ass guys going up for a title and the best guy is going to win,” Magdanelo declared. “I’ve put my all into this fight. Everything has led to this point, there is no turning back.”
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