Glynn Evans chats to the ex-amateur who helped WBO Lightweight boss ‘Turbo Terry’ Flanagan construct the longest current unbeaten streak in British boxing.
‘Terrible ‘wind up merchant’
“I’m six years older than Terry and I guess he’d have been about nine years old when I first came across him at the Ancoats Lads gym where I was already boxing.
‘As a nipper, Tez was a cheeky little kid but always very funny. He was always mooching about, up to no good at the amateur shows – he always seemed to ‘acquire’ about five meal tickets (!) - and he was a terrible ‘wind up merchant’ to us older lads. He’d claim he’d seen our opponent warming up on the pads, that they looked ‘sensational’ and we were about to get leathered. But he’d get away with murder because everyone assumed he was far younger than he really was. He was always tiny, looked about 11 when he was really 14 or 15!
‘Did I think he’d become world champion? Did I heck!’
‘It’s well documented that, as an amateur, Tez won barely half of his 60 bouts. Being a southpaw, he always looked classy but, because he was so small, he usually conceded natural weight and, to be honest, he didn’t take it very seriously.
‘Whenever he lost he’d just shrug his shoulders and say: ‘I’m shit, me!’ He fought all the good kids – and beat plenty of them, including Paul Butler – but it was just a bit of fun to him. He had no aspirations to be a pro. He only started to take it seriously once he began entering the senior ABAs, at 18.
‘That’s when I started training him. Terry was actually thinking of ‘jacking it’ but I convinced him he had something. He had a very sound foundation, didn’t make many mistakes. It was just a case of adding a few extras. I had him for his last 15 amateur fights and he won most of them. Did I think he’d become world champion? Did I heck! Our dream was always to win a British title. Nothing more.
‘Physiologically, he’s a bit of a freak.’
‘Initially, the ‘Terry Turbo’ had nothing to do with boxing. It was because he never kept still as a nipper but it’s turned out really apt. Along with Chris Eubank Jr, I’d say he’s the fittest boxer in the country, at the minute. From a very early age, he was very busy on the bags, had a naturally high work rate. Even now, when he returns to the gym after a break, he gets all his times back down within a week. He’s just a naturally fit guy and ultra competitive with all the other lads at the gym.
‘Recently we took him to Sheffield University to have some fitness level tests done. When he was on the running machines, the ‘experts’ said he wasn’t working hard enough because everyone else’s heart rate was around 190 yet Terry’s never rose above 170, 172. That’s just the way he is. Physiologically, he’s a bit of a freak.
‘If I try to give him an easy day in the gym, he really moans.’
‘Coming through, Tez was never out of the gym for more than a week after a fight but today, because of the pressure, he takes a bit longer off just so he can completely switch off. It’s to recharge mentally more than physically due to all the demands on him as a world champion.
‘For his world title fights, ideally, I like to have a 10 week camp. I really push him and everything - bags, pads, circuits - is high-intensity. If I notice him flagging, I shorten the rounds so that the intensity and quality are always there. And Terry loves it - his boxing idols were always the high intensity guys like Morales, Barrera and Pacquiao. If I try to give him an easy day in the gym, he really moans.
‘As an amateur he had no strength.’
‘Today Terry is huge at the weight and exceptionally strong but that certainly wasn’t always the case. As an amateur he had no strength and was totally reliant on his skill – something that’s served him well since. He was very late to develop physically.
‘But he’s completely flipped it on his head. When he was about 22 or 23, Terry had a hip injury so took a break from the gym and got some work as a scaffolder and when he returned to training, he was a completely different animal.
‘Extremely proud of defending his unbeaten record.’
‘And he’s got real mental strength, this natural grittiness. Because of all the losses he suffered as an amateur, he’s now extremely proud of defending his unbeaten record. Even coming through, he prepared for every six or eight rounder like it was a world title shot. There’s always been a real hunger. He’s from a large family and, while his parents always did the best they could for him, he didn’t have the best gear or trainers, as a kid. I remember that he always struggled to pay his gym subs. In the end, the coach just stopped asking.
‘Today, as world champion, he’s still as down to earth as he ever was. His idea of going out for a nice meal is a Nando’s or a Bella Pasta. He’s not tight, he just doesn’t get ‘high end’!
‘Best footwork in Britain.’
‘Because of his size and engine, Terry’s other qualities tend to get overlooked but he’s got a lot talent. For some reason, he doesn’t always look easy on the eye on fight night – sometimes he switches off, if it’s getting easy - but top champions who spar with him in the gym all sing his praises. Petrov will really test him and that will bring out his best, you’ll see.
‘Tez can do a bit of everything; box, tie ‘em up inside, go forward. He’s got incredibly fast hands which the commentators seldom pick up on. That’ll serve him well if and when he moves up in weight. He’s at his best when he’s counter punching off the front foot because it stops opponents coming forward. And he can do that because, in my view, he’s got the best footwork in Britain.
‘He’s only going to get better!’
‘Physically, Terry’s in his prime right now but I can still improve him, make him a little looser, add more head movement. We’re always looking to learn new moves and some of them stick. He’s recently added a new uppercut. The bad news for every other lightweight in the world is he’s only going to get better!”
Terry Flanagan v Petr Petrov tops an unmissable evening of action at the Manchester Arena on April 8th.
Tickets priced £50, £70, £100, £150, £200, £300, VIP £500 are available
From eventim at www.eventim.co.uk and 0844 249 1000 and the Manchester Arena at www.manchester-arena.com and 0844 847 8000.