By Richard Hubbard
Media darling isn’t a label ever likely to be attached to Terry Flanagan.
He may be Britain’s best world champion with an unbeaten record of 32-0 to his name, but he is not one for the high life and not much one for talking either, trash or otherwise.
The truth is he doesn’t really get why people want to talk to him in the first place. He just wants to fight and be the best at what he does.
In this media-driven age it is probably held against him, used as an excuse to deny him the fights he wants and deserves. Boxers nowadays are seemingly obliged to put themselves out there, to tag onto the celebrity circuit and never knowingly miss a photo opportunity.
Some, it has been remarked, would turn up at the opening of a jiffy bag.
Not Turbo Terry. The only bright lights shining on him are when he steps onto the ring canvas.
He admits, however, that his reticence probably doesn’t do him any favours and concedes that it could be held against him, but the 27-year-old is an old school fighter with admirable values and stirring the pot on social media just isn’t his thing.
“I think so, but most of the best fighters in the world haven’t been mouthy,” he stated in his defence. “Nowadays people talk their way into fights via social media and calling people out. I’m not that sort of person and will never be the sort of person to try belittle someone to get a fight.
“I respect everyone I get in the ring with and respect every fighter. Hopefully people can see that my boxing does the talking for me.”
Flanagan’s low-ish profile has been often mentioned in dispatches by the team of his Manchester lightweight rival Anthony Crolla as a reason why a home fixture between the pair hasn’t yet come to fruition.
It is a natural match-up that is logical on so many levels, one which would bang out the Manchester Arena and provide a bumper bounty for both fighters.
Flanagan doesn’t buy the profile rhetoric counting against him in this instance. To him, it is just an excuse cooked up to avoid a fight they simply don’t want.
Crolla and Jorge Linares will play it again this weekend after the Venezuelan stylishly snatched the spoils in the first encounter. Flanagan does not expect his name to crop up in the post-fight debrief should the home fighter level the score.
“That would say they don’t want the fight because they go on about profile, but anyone in boxing knows I am the best lightweight in this country and they know that people who just go by Sky TV don’t know anything about boxing.”
“They will just have Crolla-Linares rammed down their throat in every advert, the same with Haye-Bellew, you couldn’t turn on Sky without seeing that.
“I’m not too fussed over it, as long as I keep winning and no matter who they put me in with I am 100 per cent confident I will beat them.”
It is the rated Russian Petr Petrov who will be put in front of Flanagan on the monster Manchester card on April 8, a night where the first bell will officially ring on the groundbreaking boxing partnership between BT Sport and BoxNation.
Flanagan will fulfil his media obligations ahead of the fifth defence of his WBO world title with a smile, but to say he will embrace the media attention would be stretching it a bit.
“I hate it, to be honest. When I’m told I’ve got media to do I am gutted really and just want to train.
“I just don’t see why anyone is interested in hearing me speak because I know I am not the best talker and like to do my talking in the ring.
“I suppose it is a downside that I am not good at it because people say ‘if I was a world champion, 32-0, I would be shouting this and that’, but the main reason I am not mouthy was demonstrated by David Haye, who said he was going to blast Tony Bellew out inside a round and he’s been made to look a c**t now.
“It is another reason why I don’t shout my mouth off – there is always the chance of slipping up.
“I understand that the media side of it needs to be done and they tell me to do this and say this or say that. I hate it, I’d rather just do the training, but I do know it has got to be done.
“I do it, but don’t necessarily enjoy it, whereas some people thrive off it – I don’t.”
Flanagan is a regular at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on matchdays where, as a local boy made good, he understandably stands out from the crowd.
He has no problem with fellow fans requesting pictures or autographs, but doesn’t really grasp why he is asked in the first place. The thing is with Flanagan, in his own mind he places himself no higher than anybody else in life’s pecking order.
“I don’t, people ask me for a picture and I just don’t see myself as anything. But, if I’d have seen Ricky Hatton at the match years ago, I’d have been like ‘there’s Ricky Hatton!’ and excited as a kid.
“When kids come up to me I think ‘why are they so bothered?’ or ‘what are they interested in me for?’. I don’t see myself as owt special.”
His lack of self-appreciation is both genuine and astounding, but he admits he might, just might, look back in years to come and give himself a pat on the back.
“I’ll probably realise it when I retire. When I sit back and look at my career I might think ‘yeah I done well’ but now I just want to strive for more. Like I say, I want to unify titles, move up a weight and win titles at other weights.
“I’m always looking to better myself but, if I was to retire today, I’d look back in a few years and think I’d done ok.”
Next time: Flanagan on what will lure out the warrior within him