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Terry Flanagan vs. Derry Mathews tonight in Liverpool, UK

By Scott Gilfoid: WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan (29-0, 12 KOs) will be defending his title tonight against fringe contender Derry Mathews (38-9-2, 20 KOs) at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, UK. This is a voluntary defense for the 26-year-old Flanagan. Instead of going with a bigger name and a more talented fighter, Flanagan has opted to fight the 32-year-old Mathews, who he already beat in 2012 by a decision.

Mathews has a recognizable name, and he’s not much of a threat to beating the 5’9 ½”, which pretty much explains entirely why the fight was made. Flanagan should be giving a rematch to Jose Zepeda, who he said he was going to fight again after the hard hitting Zepeda suffered a shoulder injury in their fight for the vacant WBO 135lb title last year in July.

Rather than facing a healthy Zepeda after his shoulder injury healed, Flanagan moved on and defended his WBO title against Diego Magdaleno last October. Flanagan is now making his second defense of his WBO title against Mathews.

I feel like I’m the best lightweight in the world,” Flanagan said to IFL TV. “I’ve got my tactics. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll got to plans B and C. As soon as Derry starts making mistakes, that’s when it’ll end. He could have beat Barroso, but I don’t think he can beat me.”

I disagree with entirely with Flanagan about him being the best lightweight in the division. He might be the best lightweight in the UK, but that’s the whole division. There happens to be talents like Jorge Linares and Ismael Barroso that are out there in the division, and those guys would very likely do a number on Flanagan.

I also disagree with Flanagan in his belief that Derry Mathews would beat Barroso. That sounds like dream stuff from Flanagan. Mathews seems to have Crolla’s number, but he would be WAY out of his league against a puncher like Barroso. The same goes for Flanagan. Barros never stops punching, and Flanagan and Mathews are methodical punchers, who need to slowly set things up.

If you put pressure on them, they seem to get flustered. I could see Flanagan come unglued quickly from the pressure that Barroso puts on him. The same for Mathews. It would be too easy for Barroso.

#9 WBO Liam Walsh is already calling out Flanagan. That kind of gives you a good indication of who Flanagan will be fighting next. He’ll be fighting another British fringe contender rather than one of the tougher nuts in the WBO’s ranking like Felix Verdejo, Petr Petrov, Sharif Bogere, Zepeda or Michael Perez.

“For me Flanagan is one of the best, if not the, best Lightweights in the world,” said Walsh. “It’s an exciting fight and I’d get good props for taking him on. People would class me as an underdog in the fight which I’ve never been and I’d like to be.”

I’m giving Mathews a good chance of beating Flanagan tonight. If he puts nonstop pressure against Flanagan, stays close, and doesn’t let him breathe, then I see Mathews winning. Like I said, Flanagan has to fight in a slow pace for him to do well.

If you make the fight into a reckless war, he comes unglued. I see Flanagan as one of those paint by the number system type of fighters. He’s fine as long as everything is done in his usual sequence. But if you make it messy by just going total savage on him, I see him crumbling quickly both mentally and physically.

The question is can Mathews fight in that type of manner to get the job done? I know the aforementioned fighters I listed previously could do the job on Flanagan, but Mathews would have to have his head on straight to beat him. It depends on his trainer and how he’s been prepared.

Mathews looked terrible in his losses to Gavin Rees, Stephen Ormond and Emiliano Marsili. Mathews was a lot better recently in his wins over Tony Luis, Gyorgy Mizsei Jr., Adam Dingsdale and Martin Gethin. However, those aren’t good fighters in my view, so it’s not surprising that Mathews was able to beat them. I thought Mathews was robbed of a win in his fight against Crolla in 2013.

The fight was scored a draw, and I thought the scoring was worse than laughable. I had Mathews winning 9 rounds to 3. I didn’t care who won the fight. I just thought he landed the much more telling shots in every round. I gave Crolla three mercy rounds, but that was it. After I saw Crolla get a draw out of that fight, I wasn’t surprised when he was given a draw later in his fight against Darleys Perez in their first fight in July 2015.

I think Mathews may need a knockout to get a victory tonight. He’s the B-side opponent, and he’s up there in age. Those are two strikes he’s got against him. Flanagan is younger at 26, he brings in big crowds, and he’s got the unblemished record. I think Flanagan will have a four round lead right off the bat in this fight. I can’t see Mathews being given a decision at all, period. I think he needs a knockout to win.

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