WBO lightweight boss Terry Flanagan - proud owner of the longest unblemished record in British boxing - is confident that 2017 shall be the year he finally gets to prove beyond any contention, that he is the finest 135lb fighting man on this planet.
Here, speaking to Glynn Evans, the Manchester ‘Turbo’, now a perfect 32-0, casts his critical eye over the charlatans recognised by rival governing bodies, who he intends to crush to confirm his world domination.
Robert Easter Jr (IBF)
This Adrien Broner protégé from Ohio collected the vacant title in a Fight of the Year contender against much avoided Ghanaian bomber Richard Commey last September. In his opening defence last weekend, he showed he could shift a ticket in his native Toledo whilst comprehensively outscoring Puerto Rico’s Luis Cruz.
Fresh at 26, and with the confidence of an unbeaten 19 fight slate, the 5ft 11in ‘E-Bunny’ is one of the few men at 9st 9lbs that Flanagan would be forced to spot height and reach to. With a 74% kayo ratio, Easter might also hold a marginal edge in raw power. However, at this stage, he’d be a long shot to upset someone as experienced, industrious and skilled as the awkward Manc southpaw.
The ‘Turbo’ says: ‘I’ve only seen the clips of his fight with Cruz but he’s meant to have looked very good. I saw all of his title win against Richard Commey last year. That was a very close fight that could’ve gone either way but Commey is a very dangerous guy, a ridiculous puncher. The result could’ve gone either way but Easter stood up well to big pressure and he showed a lot of b******s and heart. That fight was pretty hectic so Easter proved his stamina and he must have a great chin cos the African can really whack with his right hand. Everyone else was avoiding him (Commey).
Easter’s tall and rangy. His record clearly shows he can punch a bit. He dropped Cruz in each of the last three rounds so clearly he carries his power late and, despite his size, he probably isn’t struggling at the weight if he finished that strongly.
That said, I believe he’s the weakest of us four current champions -he’s certainly the least experienced – and I’d jump at a chance to fight him. I’ve been calling for unification fights for years and of course I’d travel to the States to secure them.
I’d be very confident against ‘Bunny’ because my style really doesn’t suit these Americans who like to just stand back, pose and admire their work. They line up these tailor-made limited Latin Americans who just steam forward and make them look good for TV. My speed, footwork and fast pace would prove a real struggle for Easter. I’d really put it on him from the opening bell and eventually I’d get him.’
Jorge Linares (WBA)
A modern great, the Tokyo-based Venezuelan is a four time, three-weight world champion who has won eight of the ten global title fights he has contested since 2007.
In addition to the land of his birth, ‘El Nino de Oro’ (Golden Boy) has triumphed in Japan, Panama, Argentina, South Korea, the US, Mexico and England (scalping both Kevin Mitchell and Anthony Crolla) whilst compiling a formidable 41-3 slate. Twenty-seven casualties succumbed early to his scorching fists.
However, the 5ft 8in Latino is now well into his 32nd year and all his defeats were by emphatic stoppage. On 25th March, he returns to the UK to defend his crown in a rematch with Crolla. Expect Flanagan to be making notes from ringside.
The ‘Turbo’ says: ‘I have to say I was impressed with Linares in his first fight with Crolla and I think he’ll probably win the rematch the same way. Crolla had the right tactics but it just wasn’t his night.
Before that fight Linares looked pretty thin and fragile and, early doors, it looked as if Anthony was going to run away with it. But then he hurt Crolla in the middle rounds and really kicked on. In the close rounds, Linares was able to really turn it on for 20-30 seconds to nick the session. He’s a good tidy boxer who had a bit more class when he let his hands go with speed, sticking ten shot combos together. He’s proved a great champion at several weights now and he’s delivered away from home, all over the world. You have to give him maximum respect.
But he’s 31 now and surely coming to the end of a very hard career. All his defeats were by stoppage so I’ll be looking to hurt him from the off. I’m very confident that, again, if I put it right on him, I’ll eventually get to him and, when he gets caught, he’ll ‘go’. I expect to take him out.’
‘Mikey’ Garcia (WBC)
Even the ‘Turbo’ has to genuflect to mighty ‘Mikey’ when it comes to statistics. Formerly an outstanding amateur from a famous fight family, Miguel joined the pros in July 2006 and has been victorious in all 36 gigs since.
Blessed with genuine one shot ‘take out’ power in either mitt (30 victims extinguished early), the 5ft 6in Californian is on the cusp of pound-for-pound contention after bagging world titles at featherweight, super-feather (both WBO) and lightweight (WBC) and trouncing all seven world champions he has confronted.
Dormant from January 2014 until July 2016, 29 year old ‘Mikey’ was astonishingly sharp and vicious when bombing out previously undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin inside three rounds to claim his 135lb belt in late January.
Having fought outside the US five times previously, it’s not inconceivable that Garcia could be enticed to the UK – according Flanagan crucial home advantage – provided his remuneration has the appropriate number of digits!
The ‘Turbo’ says: ‘He’s the best of the other champions, the strongest and most rounded lightweight, other than myself. He looked really good knocking out Dejan (Zlaticanin) but the Montenegrin was made for him. I’d have done something similar.
He was a very dominant super-feather champion and, despite his 30 month break, he’s come back better than ever. He’s certainly brought his power up -that was a brutal knockout – and I believe he could take it up to light-welter too, if he chooses.
He’s got a great jab which tends to go unnoticed because of his power punching and he’s also got a good boxing brain. His corner (Dad Eduardo and brother Roberto) is also very strong.
‘Mikey’ takes them all out but I want to test myself against the best. Let’s see how good he is when you’re throwing back at him. I’m a good three inches taller and naturally bigger so the general plan would be to keep cool, calm and collected and use my southpaw skills and greater size to outbox him. But you can’t be too technical. There’ll be times when you’ll have to stand toe-to-toe and fight him. I’m confident I can cope with that. We’re both undefeated in well over 30 so it’s sure to be a hell of a battle.’