Terry Flanagan (32-0, 13 KO’s), WBO lightweight champion, made another successful title defense against Orlando Cruz (25-5-1, 13 KO’s) via 8th round stoppage after two knockdowns in the same round due to cumulative shots. Cruz looked at least a full weight class lower than Flanagan, and it paid dividends in the bout. Flanagan from the onset controlled the range with his pinpoint jab, while simultaneously setting Cruz up for thudding body shots in the early rounds.
Cruz never seemed in the fight, and the lack of fight ending power from Flanagan was again evident in this fight. However, Flanagan easily makes up for it in pure volume alone; add in above average accuracy and timing, he becomes an offensive terror for many guys at lightweight. His chin has also been proven to be sturdy enough to challenge any of the elite lightweights. At one point in the fight, Flanagan walked through a hard check hook from Cruz and it didn’t faze Flanagan in the slightest.
Now Flanagan can be summarized by most as a standard “European boxer” with a high guard and solid fundamentals, but he sits as the longest running active undefeated U.K. boxer at this point. So now Flanagan’s place at lightweight, a champion with four title defenses against hand picked opposition, should be examined. Can he continue his undefeated career with the likes of Jorge Linares, Anthony Crolla, Vasyl Lomachenko, etc. on the horizon?
TBV’s Top 15 Lightweights:
- Jorge Linares (WBA)
- Rances Barthelemy
- Terry Flanagan (WBO)
- Anthony Crolla
- Dejan Zlaticanin (WBC)
- Petr Petrov
- Mickey Bey
- Robert Easter Jr. (IBF)
- Denis Shafikov
- Felix Verdejo
- Daud Yordan
- Richard Commey
- Mikey Garcia
- Luke Campbell
- Xolisani Ndongeni (IBO)
The lightweight division has quickly shaped into a deep and competitive division.Linares vs. Crolla, Barthelemy vs. Bey, and Easter Jr. vs. Commey have happened this year alone. Plus we have Commey vs. Shafikov and Zlaticanin vs. Garcia over the next two weeks to add more clarity to the division.
Flanagan is truly the last mystery in the upper tier of lightweight. Linares has victories over Crolla and Kevin Mitchell, and Barthelemy has names like Javier Fortuna and Mickey Bey on his resume. Even a Zlaticanin has wins over Rickey Burns, Ivan Redkach, and Petr Petrov. Flanagan’s best wins are Derry Mathews, Diego Magdaleno, and Orlando Cruz. Those names don’t exactly jump off the page as “elite.” However, if Flanagan is able to fight another top five lightweight and win in some definitive manner, he will legitimize his championship reign.
Does Flanagan have the necessary tools to beat a Linares or Barthelemy? He has the size, and understanding on how to use that size to his advantage, to give a boxer like
Linares, who has fought at lower weight classes, significant trouble. Add in the extreme activity rate, it will take a boxer with a level of boxing IQ similar to a Lomachenko or a Barthelemy to systematically take away those physical gifts of Flanagan. Take away Flanagan’s range and length by slipping his jab and going to the body, which will also wear him down taking away his ability to push the pace.
Flanagan is an enigma until he beats a top 15 opponent. He could be an elite part of this new generation U.K. boxers along the lines of what James Degale, Carl Frampton, Anthony Joshua, and Kell Brook have been trying to prove. However, unlike those aforementioned names, Flanagan hasn’t fought a credible elite fighter. Until he does, he will remain “domestic level.”