A decade on from witnessing fellow Mancunian Ricky Hatton defeat Kostya Tszyu, Terry Flanagan enjoyed his own coronation on home turf on Saturday.
Flanagan claimed the vacant WBO lightweight title at the Velodrome in Manchester. It wasn’t quite in the style he would have wanted, though, as opponent Jose Zepeda was forced to stay on his stool after the second round because of injury.
Despite the best efforts of his corner to pop it back in, a dislocated shoulder forced the Californian to pull out.
It was a disappointing finish to an intriguing fight, and because of the problem occurring when the visiting fighter was attempting to throw a punch, Flanagan was handed the win.
Turbo became the first Englishman to hold a full world title at 135 pounds, per James Robson of the Manchester Evening News, though Derry Mathews is the interim WBA champion.
In a division where Britain is blessed with so many good fighters, Flanagan emerged out of the shadows to make history. And in his own backyard, too.
He also followed in the footsteps of his hero Hatton, who became world champion at the MEN Arena by beating Tszyu back in June 2005.
A teenager at the time, Flanagan was there to see the drama unfold that night, even though he didn’t have a ticket. He explained to Gareth A Davies of the Telegraph how he managed to get up close to see his hero in action:
“It’s a lot of luck getting in somewhere free of charge. I just ran past security and ended up going round the other side and down the stairs pretending I had a ticket.I then jumped over the railings and on to the floor. I watched a few rounds there, walked further, watched some there and ended up getting ringside for the last two rounds.
I still remember it now, shaking Kostya Tszyu’s hand after the fight.”
Now, Flanagan finds himself with a major belt around his waist.
In his post-fight interview, he admitted he would be willing to give Zepeda a rematch, as BoxNation tweeted: “I want the rematch. I want to prove that I’m the better boxer!” – @terryflanagan5 #BoxNation #FlanaganZepeda.
However, Scott Gilfoid of BoxingNews24 made the point that any possibility of a second meeting between the pair would depend on Zepeda’s recovery time: “If it needs surgery, then it’s going to take a while for him to come back from it.”
Flanagan will not want to wait around too long.
He has built up a reputation without the same fanfare as some of his domestic rivals. Now, though, he has the chance to cash in on the opportunities that will come his way.
He said, per BoxingScene: “After all the years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears I’m finally here, and now I can start looking at some big fights and big money.”
The undefeated southpaw will have to carefully consider his next move—holding the WBO title suddenly makes him a much more attractive proposition.
He may not have to look too far, however. Britain is fortunate to have a plethora of intriguing lightweights.
Anthony Crolla, who, like Flanagan, hails from Manchester, returns from injury against Darleys Perez on July 18, while Londoner Kevin Mitchell fell short in his bid to take the WBC title from Jorge Linares in May.
Scotsman Ricky Burns is a former world champion at the limit and will be in action on the undercard in Hull on August 1 when city rivals Luke Campbell and Tommy Coyle go toe-to-toe in the same division.
Liverpudlian Mathews is firmly in the mix, and a bout with Flanagan would be lucrative for both men.
It would pit Manchester against Liverpool; the sporting rivalry between the two cities would make sure of a bumper crowd, wherever the bout was to be staged.
They have met before too, in the Prizefighter series, back in 2012. That, though, was a three-round contest in a knockout tournament. Things are different now, even if Mathews is the interim champion.
Liam Walsh is another name in the frame—the 29-year-old was in action on the undercard at the Velodrome, picking up the WBO intercontinental lightweight title with a win over Isaias Santos Sampaio.
He has secured British and Commonwealth belts at super featherweight but has flip-flopped between that division and lightweight.
Flanagan certainly has options if he cannot sort out another date with Zepeda. The 26-year-old has quietly risen to the top and is now in a position to make some noise.