Frank Warren: With Terry Flanagan, Derry Mathews and Kevin Mitchell chasing world titles, British lightweights mean business

EXCLUSIVE COLUMN: The 9st 6lb division has rarely been healthier

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The Independent Online

While traditionally it is boxing’s heavyweights who hog the headlines here in Britain, the lightweights are coming on strong. The 9st 6lb division has rarely been healthier or busier, with a fistful of likely lads who are all contenders for world titles.

First up tomorrow night in a final eliminator for the WBO belt is Manchester’s unbeaten Terry Flanagan. They call the 25-year-old “Turbo” because of his supercharged, full-throttle style. The English champion and Prizefighter winner challenges Dubliner Stephen Ormond for the WBO European lightweight title at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. Believe me, this could be the fight of the year.

America’s reigning world champion Terence Crawford is expected to vacate the belt and move up to junior welterweight so Ormond or Flanagan will face Juan Diaz for the vacant title.

Then, on 6 March in Liverpool, popular Scouser Derry Mathews – who was outpointed by Ormond in a thriller just over a year ago – gets his WBA title chance against the slick Cuban holder Richar Abril.

Another Mancunian, Anthony Crolla, awaiting full recovery from the injuries sustained when tackling thieves robbing a neighbour’s house, has stepped aside but remains in line to meet the winner.

WATCH: Flanagan vs Gethin highlights

 

Completing this intriguing ring of roses is Londoner Kevin Mitchell, who earned a third shot at a world title, the WBC version, with his impressive stoppage of Daniel Estrada last month. Hopefully more mature at 30, he won’t be found as wanting this time when he steps up in class as he was in his previous feeble title challenges against Michael Katsidis and Ricky Burns.

Tyson was part legend, part lout – but didn’t scare Buster

Perhaps more than any other sport, boxing loves to feed off its anniversaries and the one this week which celebrates – if that’s the appropriate word – the bizarre happening in Tokyo 25 years ago when Iron Mike Tyson went into meltdown certainly whets the appetite of fans and fighters alike.

The sight of the self-styled baddest man on the planet suffering one of the most ignominious defeats in boxing history to James “Buster” Douglas, handpicked as an easy touch and quoted by the only casino in Las Vegas willing to accept bets at 42-1 against, remains arguably the biggest upset the sport has known.

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Buster Douglas memorably defeats Mike Tyson

When, in the 10th round, a belaboured, bewildered and crushed Tyson was sent crashing to his knees, it was the moment his career went into terminal decline. Big Buster, the hapless no-hoper, had punched a hole through his supposed invincibility.

A floored genius indeed, with the world left to wonder in the years that followed whether his epitaph would be that of a legend or a lout. In my book, a bit of both.

Tyson was a bully and, like all bullies, it was inevitable that he would come unstuck. Significantly, all his defeats came against opponents he couldn’t mentally intimidate.

Usually he put the frighteners on them before a punch was thrown, scaring some of them stiff, as he appeared to do with Michael Spinks and Frank Bruno. Douglas turned out to be one guy who wasn’t fazed by Tyson’s fearsome reputation.

Four other men went on to beat Tyson after that debacle in the Tokyo Dome. One was Britain’s Danny Williams, who I then managed. Before they fought in Louisville, Kentucky, in July 2004, I told Williams: “You will be a massive, massive underdog but take him past two rounds and he’ll blow up. He’ll be dead on his arse.”

 

I knew he was shot, and that’s how it turned out. He threw everything at Williams for a torrid round and a half and blew himself out. Danny then did a job on him, stopping him in four rounds. I’ll be honest, I’d had my own well-documented issues with Tyson and seeing my man do a number on him did my old heart good.

Tyson was an enigma. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was a schizophrenic but there certainly was a deeply disturbing element of the Jekyll and Hyde about him.

I’m ready to arrange Fury v Wilder in a heartbeat

New WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder has again publicly declared that he fancies Tyson Fury as his next opponent. Instead of calling him out, Wilder should get his people to call me and we’d make this fight in a heartbeat once Fury has dealt with Christian Hammer at the O2 on 28 February. As that great American referee Mills Lane (he’s the man who ejected the other Tyson after he spat out Evander Holyfield’s shell-like, by the way), used to say: “Let’s get it on!”

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