Luke Blackledge has re-iterated promoter Frank Warren’s claims that Terry Flanagan is the best lightweight fighter on the planet.
The Mancunian stepped into Derry Mathews’ own back yard to keep hold of his WBO World title strap with a unanimous points verdict at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
The 26-year-old BoxNation boxer, who claimed the belt against Jose Zepeda last year and defended it against Diego Magdaleno, was penalised in round eight by referee Phil Edwards for throwing and landing an illegal forearm, but went on the secure victory convincingly on the scorecards of Marcus McDonnell (115-112), Terry O’Connor (117-110) and Dave Parris (117-110).
“I thought he performed well,” said Clitheroe’s Commonwealth champion. “It’s another defence and he’s done it in good fashion.
“It was always going to be an awkward contest against Mathews, who is a good fighter and he’s experienced, but he did what he had to.
“Flanagan’s shown that he’s capable of winning in different ways but he’ll stick to the game plan and out-work his opponents.”
Blackledge added: “He’s flying the flag for Frank Warren and BoxNation at the moment. He’s on fire, as are a number of world champions currently signed with them. Frank is getting a good stable together now.
“Flanagan is the best lightweight in the world. He’s confident, he’s an unbeaten world champion and he’ll fight anyone.”
One mouth-watering match-up with huge potential would be to pair him in an all-British unification bout with fellow Mancunian Anthony Crolla.
The WBA champion is set to fulfil his duty of facing mandatory challenger Ismael Barroso on May 7th after the unbeaten Venezuelan swept aside Kevin Mitchell in December’s eliminator.
But Blackledge believes another win on the records of both fighters would build towards an even bigger blockbuster.
Options for Flanagan could include Jorge Linares, stripped of the WBC belt because he was unable to defend the title due to a broken hand, or the WBO’s number one challenger, Zepeda, who retired with a dislocated shoulder in their last meeting.
“Flanagan versus Crolla is a big unification fight and a big seller,” said Blackledge. “Flanagan wants the fight because he wants to beat the best.
“Hopefully it happens. Crolla’s next fight is a tough test and a very big risk. But every fight is tough at world championship level. These are the fights that he needs.
“It will hopefully prove to be a good risk to take. It will make an even bigger fight with Flanagan and there’ll be even more money involved next time.
“It’s a great 50/50 fight but personally I’d back Flanagan to get the job done. He’s strong, works his jab well and his stamina and work-rate is a huge attribute. He’s a tricky southpaw that really puts it on his opponents. Everybody wants to see the Crolla fight happen.”