Updated: Saturday, 14th December 2019 @ 1:28pm

'Top of the tree': Flanagan confident he's best of British pre Manchester title defence

'Top of the tree': Flanagan confident he's best of British pre Manchester title defence

| By Andy Donley

Terry Flanagan has insisted that he is the pinnacle of British lightweight boxing ahead of his first WBO World Championship defence on Saturday.

Local-lad Flanagan, from Crumpsall, secured the previously vacant world belt when American Jose Zepeda retired with a shoulder injury in the second round of their bout in July this year.

Speaking ahead of his contest with Diego Magdaleno – who previously missed out on the WBO Super Featherweight title when defeated by Roman Martinez in 2013 – Flanagan insisted he was above domestic rivals Anthony Crolla and Kevin Mitchell.

“I’m at the top of the tree now,” he said at Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference.

“I’m the only one with the world title.

“Crolla and Mitchell, they’ve got the backing of Sky so they’re more out there in the public, but I’m number one.”

Following Zepeda’s early retirement from their title clash, the pressure is on Flanagan to impress on Saturday and to prove that he truly belongs on the world stage.

But the 26-year-old is confident that he is in the right shape to put on the performance of his life on Saturday, and will draw strength from defending the title in front of his home crowd at the Manchester Arena.

“It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of from when I started ten years ago, and to think I’m here ten years on with my title, it’s great,” he said.

“I always just train how I train, nothing changes, I always put 110% in anything I ever do so it’s just been the same as usual.

“I’m looking forward to putting on my best career performance on the night.

“[Whether it is harder winning or defending a title] depends on the opponent doesn’t it.

“Zepeda was a good quality opponent, I think Magdaleno is a good quality opponent but let’s just get in there. I was confident of beating Zepeda and I’m confident again.”

Francis Warren – son of Queensbury Promotions supremo Frank – said afterwards that ‘unnamed’ British lightweights had been offered a fight with Flanagan, but ‘no one wants to know’.

It has been rumoured that the man that applies too is Crolla, but his trainer Joe Gallagher will have other things on his mind, as Crolla’s stablemate Liam Smith prepares to face John Thompson for the vacant WBO World Super-Welterweight Championship on the same card.

‘Beefy’ is looking to become the first of his four brothers to win a world title, with older brother Paul twice losing to Arthur Abrahams and Callum and Stephen both champions at at least British level.

Although the Liverpudlian denies that being the first world champion in such an illustrious family would give him ‘bragging rights’, he is excited to establish himself at the forefront of the group’s achievements.

“It’s going to be nice,” he said.

“They’ve got to National titles first, Commonwealth titles first, I’ve had to go and win them after them.

“So I’m looking forward to being the first to this and seeing all the fuss around me.”

First, the 27-year-old will have to beat Thompson, a 27-year-old from New Jersey who certainly hasn’t come to make up the numbers.

In fact, the American told the assembled media that the press conference was the last time that they would see the belt, although he promised to share pictures on his Instagram should anybody become nostalgic.


John 'Apollo Kidd' Thompson, via Instagram, with thanks

Thompson’s entourage were also in confident spirits, praising the strength of their fighter’s previous opponents, as well as the names that he has been sparring in training – claims that got short shift with recently crowned British Boxing Board of Control Trainer of the Year Gallagher.

“Their fighter got knocked out in two rounds by Galarza,” he countered.

“We’ll see Saturday night – he can’t hold a shot and he’ll be going down, end of.

“And while you’re at it, I know that John is a nice guy, a humble guy, and he’s good at drawing, but I’d love him to do a drawing of Liam with his world title belt.”

Gallagher was in confident form, with Smith aiming to become the second World Champion under Gallagher’s tutelage, with Scott Quigg the current WBA Super-Bantamweight champ.

And the 46-year-old Mancunian is confident that Smith – described by Warren as ‘undoubtedly one of the most talented fighters out there’ – will do the business on Saturday.

“Liam Smith is going to announce himself on the world stage on Saturday night,” he said.

“He’s been one of the most underrated champions in Britain for a long time now.

“He’s going to show what he’s all about on Saturday night and we’ll have a new world champion.”