Manchester hotshot Terry Flanagan is hoping to emulate his hero Ricky Hatton as he challenges for the lightweight world title this weekend.
The 26-year-old faces knockout artist Jose Zepeda, live and exclusive on BoxNation this Saturday night, with the Ancoats boxer looking to become the WBO champion in front of his home fans at the Manchester Velodrome.
His idol, two-weight world champion Hatton, claimed his first title on home soil when he overcame the highly respected Kostya Tszyu at the M.E.N Arena 10 years ago, a feat which Manchester City fan Flanagan is confident he can also achieve.
“What Ricky did in the sport is truly amazing. I remember as a teenager watching his fight live with Tszyu after me, and some mates managed to sneak in and the atmosphere in the arena was electric. The place was buzzing,” said Flanagan.
“When Ricky won that fight people knew he was the real deal and all of Manchester was behind him – City fans and United fans. He drew in everyone, and that’s something I’m aiming to do with my fight with Zepeda.
“I’m very confident that I can win this fight and bring the belt back to Manchester and become the first English lightweight world champion in history. It’s going to be a special night for me and a fight I believe will make people sit up and take real notice,” he said.
Hatton has been vocal in his backing of the undefeated Flanagan in the run-up to the fight, something which only acts as a major boost for the former British champion, who has 27 wins on his record.
“I’m not fazed at all by fighting on such a big stage. I’m just soaking it all in and the support I have been given is fantastic. To hear Ricky is backing me is a huge motivation for me, and that can only spur me on come fight night,” said Flanagan.
“When you hear a legend like Ricky is behind you it gives you that drive and push to go out there and do everything to bring the belt back home.
“I’ve been to his gym and spoke with him and he’s got experience of these situations, so I’ve just soaked in all his advice. He’s been there and done it, so he knows what he’s talking about, and it’s great to have someone with that knowledge in your ear,” he said.
Unbeaten Zepeda though, who is renowned for his hard-hitting after knocking out 20 opponents in his 23 wins, will be just as hungry to have his hand raised at the end of the night.
‘Turbo,’ however, is unconcerned at facing someone who is a notoriously quick starter, with 19 of Zepeda’s knockouts coming within the first three rounds.
“We’ve worked a lot on Zepeda and his style, and are well aware of what he’s going to bring into the ring early on,” Flanagan said.
“Steve Maylett, my trainer has got me in great shape for this fight and we have the right game plan going in against someone with an aggressive style like Zepeda.
“I’m going to look to outbox him, use my skills, and will definitely rise to the challenge on Saturday night. I know what he’s coming with and I’m ready for it. I just can’t wait to get in the ring now and give the fans a really exciting, all action fight,” said Flanagan.
Also featuring on Saturday night’s BoxNation bill will be former bantamweight world champion Paul Butler who is looking to bounce back following his loss to Zolani Tete for the super-flyweight world title when he takes on Mexican Gustavo Molina.
Rising star Liam Walsh will also be out as he aims to make it 19 wins when he battles Isaias Santos Sampaio for the vacant WBO Intercontinental lightweight title.