Super-Lightweight contender Terry Flanagan will be aiming to become the first man to defeat Maurice Hooker when the unbeaten pair collide for the vacant WBO crown at London’s O2 Arena on April 14th.

Success between the ropes is now paramount if 28-year-old ‘Mighty Mo’ is to provide his hungry brood with a better start to life than he endured amid the crack houses and gangbanging of the depleted Oak Cliff ward on Dallas’ southside – ‘a neighbourhood where the police never show up unless someone dies!’ claims his manager Arnie Verbeek.

Hooker’s mother Sharita suffered from a cocktail of depression and drugs and his only brother – a gifted college basketball player – also became an addict. At 12, Maurice was present to witness local burglars rob the family apartment at gunpoint and, consumed by the unforgiving streets, he evolved into an incorrigible street fighter. Verbeek informed the South Dallas Observer that, prior to joining the pro fold at 21, there were 32 outstanding warrants for ‘Mighty Mo’s’ arrest!

Flanagan v Hooker

In his early teens, Hooker’s stepdad dragged him to the ‘House of Champions’ boxing gym – fronted by the city’s first World Champion, welterweight Curtis Cokes - hoping the young thug might be knocked down a peg or three. From the off, to stepdad’s astonishment, it was Mo who was administering the beatings. Nevertheless, the more he rumbled inside the ring, the less he fought with bare fists.

His amateur career exploded once he transferred across the city to the Maple Avenue Boxing Gym that Dutch-born wealth manager Verbeek opened in the upmarket Medical District in 2009. Coached and sheltered by Sultan Ali, Hooker conceded in just seven of 104 amateur starts and bagged a Dallas Golden Gloves Title.

69 of those victories came before the scorecards were required, with a raking right hand his favoured weapon of mass destruction. And despite being restricted to a four round draw in St Louis against 7-1 homeboy Tyrone Chatman on his April 2011 debut, hammer hitting Hooker has continued the trail of destruction since vaulting to the paid brigade alongside Verbeek and Ali.

Hooker in ring

Apprenticing sans promotional deal, on the former’s low budget ‘Undercard’ bills, 16 of his 23 wins came before the closing bell. At 5ft 11in tall and with a frightening 80in wingspan that would flatter many Light-Heavyweights, Hooker, like his childhood hero ‘Hitman’ Hearns, can crank up serious leverage but he is far from just a ‘home run’ slugger.

Extensive spars with the likes of Terence Crawford, Ruslan Provodnikov, Miguel Cotto and Ray Beltran have helped hone his craft. When he advanced in grade and opponents refused to drop, he showed the necessary grit and guile to cruise past Mexico’s former IBF Featherweight king Cristobal Cruz over in Tijuana, then shut out Florida’s 18-0 Courtney Jackson, Five foes on his 23-0-3 slate entered undefeated, a further four had lost just once.

Latterly, San Diego coach Vince Parra has been added top the support squad and, having cracked the world rankings without promotional support, in December 2015 he penned a deal with rapper JayZ’s RocNation Sports, to help navigate those crucial final steps towards the World Title and heighten his profile. The following year, he served as a support act on three HBO screened Andre Ward undercards.

Presently ranked second by the WBO, he brings a natural size advantage into his first European venture against the Manchester ‘Turbo’ who, sporting a perfect 33 fight slate, boasts the longest unbeaten streak in British boxing.

Flanagan presser

Older by just two months, Flanagan has fought as a pro for two years longer and his ledger shows seven more fights and 75 more rounds than the man from The Lone Star State. Former WBO Lightweight boss Tezza will walk to the ring in his home country, if not his home city, with the confidence of having already prepared for eight 12 round championship fights (six with a World Title at stake), and completing the full trip three times. World Title debutant Hooker is yet to advance past round 10 and William Hill list the Englishman as a prohibitive 6-1 on favourite.

But Hooker will arrive in the UK this spring with gunpowder in his gloves. 14 of his executions were administered in the opening two sessions and, please note, nine victims failed to beat the ‘ten count’ – perhaps the purest indicator of genuine fire power.

‘I like to catch the guy before he warms up. I love knockouts, love watching people fall,’ warns this mother of all ‘Daddies’.

‘The quicker I knock ‘em out, the quicker I get paid!’

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Buy tickets to Terry Flangan v Maurice Hooker and Billy Joe Saunders v Martin Murray here.