DOMESTIC LIGHTWEIGHTS Anthony Crolla, Derry Mathews and Kevin Mitchell all secured world title fights for themselves over the past three months, but reigning British champion Terry Flanagan is confident that he shall reign at the top of the domestic lightweight division once the dust has settled.
Crolla was cruelly deprived of his chance when he was brutally assaulted, attempting to avert a burglary. Meanwhile, Mathews and Mitchell confront WBA king Richar Abril and WBC King Jorge Linares respectively, later this year.
Fast-improving Flanagan expects to join the dance by triumphing over Dublin's Stephen Ormond in their WBO eliminator at Wolverhampton on Saturday night.
"Mitchell boxed very well the other night and is looking good again. No doubt Crolla will be back again once his injuries have healed and Luke Campbell looks a good kid," assesses 'Turbo Terry' who is unbeaten in 26.
"But I'd be very confident against any of them. I know Derry will never fight me. When I was asked to give my (mandatory) spot up to allow him and Gethin to fight for the vacant belt last May, I was reluctant cos I knew he'd swerve me, despite the promises his people made. I beat him in Prizefighter and I've bashed him up in sparring. He knows I have his number.
"But they're all going their different routes and the winner of me and Stephen Ormond is guaranteed a shot at the WBO title. Down the line, there could be some big all British world title unifications but I only ever take one fight at a time. They're a long way off."
Despite entering his British title fight against Martin Gethin last July undefeated in 25, Flanagan was still to feature in a scheduled 12-rounder and many remained unconvinced that he had the pedigree to thrive at top level.
Those reservations were quickly erased after he clubbed the teak-tough Black Country lad into a seventh round retirement at Manchester's Phones4u Arena last July.
"To be honest, I didn't think I boxed very well,' claims the 'Turbo'.
"That was me at just 50%, in my comfort zone. I'm capable of a lot better. I'm far more rounded than I was against Gethin. Against Ormond, I'll show my skills and class. I'm in the best shape ever. I'll be fitter, stronger, older, wiser."
One senses it's far from an idle boast. Having turned pro in his late teens, the wiry southpaw forced just four stoppage wins prior to winning the Prize fighter trophy in his 18th gig (October 2012). However, it seems he was simply a late bloomer physically - he has emerged as a far more formidable proposition in the two years since.
"I've stopped opponents in my last three fights, and six of my last eight,' Flanagan points out.
"When I first turned over I was happy to win those short fights on points but I've matured into a man over the last couple of years. I'm very accurate and walk 'em onto shots. Now I like to put spite into my punches and hurt people - knock 'em out. I hit a lot harder than people think. There's been several clean knockdowns among those stoppages."
In Ormond, Flanagan is confronted by easily the stiffest opponent of his six year pro career. Unlike Flanagan, the Dubliner was an elite amateur and he's since captured the WBU and WBO European belts during a 17-1 pro innings.
"Stephen's a tough kid and I show him no disrespect. I've certainly no hatred for him cos he's a (Manchester) United fan. If he was City, I'd still want to bash him up!" says the Steve Maylett-trained Manc, who has been preparing by sparring ex-British super-feather champ Gary Buckland.
"I never underestimate opponents, but equally I never take fights I don't think I can win.
"I leave my coach to study opponents, identify what they're good at. Then we'll set a plan to nullify their strengths. I know Stephen is capable of throwing a lot of shots but most just hit arms and gloves. You don't just win world titles with being busy.
"I think Stephen Ormond and his team are expecting me to back off to the ropes as I did against Gethin but there'll be very different tactics this time. We always get the game plan right.
"Losing just doesn't enter my mind. We've both been avoided so the loser of this knows it's going to be very difficult to regroup and return to this level - especially for him as he's a far bit older. But nobody wants to fight me now cos I'm good and I'm awkward. With a loss on my record the queue would be very short!
"Winning a world title is all I've ever wanted from life and it's possible it could happen by the end of this year. It's time now for the big push. It'll be a good fight, no doubt, but I'm very confident I'm going to win."