When Terry Flanagan floored Diego Magdaleno for the third time in the opening two rounds to successfully defend his WBO Lightweight world title on Saturday night, Manchester’s growing reputation for boxing excellence was firmly underscored.
Questions marks remained over the Crumpsall-born battler’s credibility as a world champion, with his belt secured by Jose Zepeda’s second-round retirement with a shoulder injury back in July.
But all doubts were dispelled at the Manchester Arena, as the 26-year-old blasted out the highly-rated Magdaleno, establishing himself as the second world title holder alongside WBA Super-Bantamweight champ Scott Quigg.
Quigg’s stablemate Liam Smith won the WBO Light Middleweight crown on Flanagan’s undercard, with the Liverpudlian further strengthening Manchester’s boxing scene, due to him being based in Bolton with recently crowned BBBofC trainer of the year Joe Gallagher.
Here he is joined by Anthony Crolla, who fights for the WBA version of the lightweight crown against Darleys Perez in November, and his three brothers, of whom Paul was twice unsuccessful in winning Arthur Abraham’s WBO Super-Middleweight, and Callum and Stephen are rapidly approaching world level themselves.
Combine those with Tyson Fury, whose Heavyweight world title clash with Wladimir Klitschko was recently postponed until November, and Floyd Mayweather-chasing Amir Khan, and it is easy to see why Gallagher recently claimed that Manchester’s boxing has never been stronger.
But even amongst such exalted company, Flanagan’s achievements are impressive.
Away from the glitz and glamour of Matchroom Promotions and Sky TV, Flanagan has crafted out a highly impressive 28-fight unbeaten record.
An all-Mancunian unification bout with Crolla would be an exciting prospect if the latter completes his remarkable fairytale and emerges from his rematch with the world title, after his first tilt at Perez ended in an acrimonious draw.
Other domestic rivals will also be targeting Flanagan’s crown, but regardless of the opposition, you can rely on the fact that Flanagan’s days of being under-rated and unappreciated are now firmly behind him.
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England’s Rugby World Cup may have been halted prematurely, but the competition itself remains an ecstatic celebration of the sport.
In the weekend of the final pool games Japan, Samoa and Romania all put in memorable performances, alongside established nations Ireland and Australia.
For Japan to be leaving the competition after becoming the first tier-two outfit to win three games is in many ways a tragedy.
The Nation of the Rising Sun’s victory against South Africa was one of the biggest upsets in sporting history, but to back that up with triumphs over Samoa and USA shows that theirs is a nation to keep an eye on, ahead of them hosting the tournament in 2019.
Samoa are one of the most exhilarating yet frustrating teams to watch in world sport, but in their 36-33 defeat against Scotland on Saturday, they showed why they are so adept at evoking the former of the two.
When a Samoan side turns up to a match with smiles on their faces it’s time to panic, and Scotland played incredibly to secure a win against a team of giants, equally adept at pulling off a wondrous offload as they at bruising bodies with massive hits.
But despite those stirring performances by the minnows, it is an old giant of the game who made the weekend’s most decisive statement.
Australia outplayed England nine days ago, showcasing their flair, skill and footballing ability.
Against Wales on Saturday, they were forced to call upon a different side of their games, and they did so in even more impressive fashion.
With two men in the sinbin, and Welsh bodies driving towards their try line time and again, 13 Aussies stood strong, repelling the attackers with massive hits and unfathomable work ethics.
Their heroics ensured a quarter-final against Scotland rather than South Africa – with New Zealand now not a match until the final – meaning Australia will only have to face one of their fellow Southern hemisphere giants if they are to claim the Webb Ellis Trophy.
After Saturday’s heroics, smart money would be placed on them to do exactly that.
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With Saturday marking the first national non-league football day, the sport in Manchester finds itself in rude health.
Tameside rivals Ashton United and Curzon Ashton are both pushing each other to improve, Salford City are flourishing under the influence of the Class of ’92, and FC United of Manchester remain one of the most interesting nonprofessional sport clubs in Europe.
Also in the area, Stockport are finally sending out positive signals that their struggles may be coming to an end, Stalybridge Celtic have made a strong start to the season in the same league, and Altrincham will be hoping to protect their position in the Vanarama National League.
In a city dominated by the two of the most financially frivolous clubs in world football, it is refreshing to follow the fortunes the region’s more humble inhabitants, and even more so to see their exploits being recognised by a national day.
Long may it continue.
Follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyDonleySport
Image courtesy of iFL TV via YouTube, with thanks.