On Friday night Jack Flatley will challenge for European super-welterweight honours having refused to wait around for a fight against 21st century great Sergio Martinez.
The 27-year-old from Bolton travelled to Spain this week in a bid to become Britain’s first EBU champion since Ryan Rhodes took Jamie Moore’s title from him in October 2009.
The Steve Wood managed fighter had planned to fight on a hotel show last weekend but instead decided to go straight for current European champion Kerman Lejarraga in Bilbao on Friday, live on DAZN.
“I’d agreed to that [Martinez fight], nothing like contracts or anything like that so I were thinking that would happen but then this [European title] come up. It’s too big of an opportunity to say no and wait around on other people,” Flatley (17-1-1, 4 KOs) told Boxing Social.
Flatley’s chance to gatecrash the higher echelons of Britain’s thriving 154lb scene see him go in as a 7/2 underdog against Lejarraga (33-2, 25 KOs). The odds-on favourite has the power and the experience but as Flatley explains Friday’s fight isn’t based around just one training camp to change his life.
“I’ve been boxing since I was 10 years old,” he says. “I’m 27 now. Seventeen years is a long time to put your effort in every single day. There’s no reason why I can’t go and beat him and give a good account of myself because I’ve trained too hard throughout my life not just one single training camp.”
Giving a good account of himself won’t be a satisfactory conclusion for the man nicknamed ‘The Quiet Storm’. The former English champion wants to take the bull by the horns and make a splash of his own with an away day win that would be one of the biggest by a British fighter this year.
“I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh he put on a good show, but you lost’. I want to be winning the belt, taking the belt off him, that’s what I fully intend on doing.”
“I hate losing,” he adds. “The way you feel when you lose is not good at all. I don’t want to go there and just lose.”
Experiences of Spain are few and far between for Flatley. Aside from an enjoyable holiday with his brother this will be Flatley’s first time fighting overseas let alone on the Mediterranean. It’s a test he is relishing and a challenge he believes that all fighters should take on.
“I think it all adds more fuel to the fire,” he says of being the away fighter.
“I don’t believe as a professional boxer you should always box in your comfort zone. You look at Tyson Fury, he’s gone abroad, he’s beat the champion in his back yard. When you look back on your career that’s more to add to your story. That’s exactly what I want to do. And it puts me in the driving seat with that belt if I win. That’s why I’m happy to be the away fighter. If I win the title, I won’t be off abroad again I’ll be fighting the guys over here so it’s a bit more in my control then.”
Facing Lejarraga is compensation for Flatley having seen fights against Anthony Fowler and JJ Metcalf fall through this year. A foot fracture of his own and then a member of his team catching Covid ruined any hopes of facing the two Liverpudlians in fights that would have propelled his status should he have won.
“I were devastated that the fights didn’t come off but in professional boxing you’ve got to be quite resilient,” he says. “I got on with it. I fractured my foot when I were meant to fight Fowler, but I were still training. I were shadow boxing on my knees! I were doing everything I could to stay ready and when the fight with Metcalf didn’t happen, I was still staying ready. One of my coaches had Covid. To be fair I was still bang up for it. I’d have gone there on my own but obviously the [British Boxing] board have certain rules, so you’ve got to abide by them. Then no more fights come up for a long time but as soon as this fight had come up, I’ve snapped it up.”
The no nonsense style of Lejarraga and the high work-rate of Flatley could see both styles gel into a highly entertaining fight. The Spaniard’s reputable power has served him well against British challenges from Bradley Skeete, Frankie Gavin and Jez Smith, while Tyrone Nurse in a ten-round non-title fight took the 29-year-old the distance.
“It’s got all the makings of a good fight because I’m an aggressive fighter,” Flatley says. “I come forward throwing a lot of punches. He’s an aggressive fighter, he throws a lot of punches and he’s a big puncher. My record might not say I’m a big puncher, but I do believe over the past two years I’ve gained a lot of strength and I think that’s going to show on the night.
“I don’t know what he’s [Lejarraga] like as a person, but as a boxer he’s a bully in the ring. At times I’ve got to bully the bully and I do believe I can do that.”
Flatley describes his win over Craig Morris two years ago as the hardest of his 19-fight career to date. Their English title clash is one to visit on YouTube as neither relented in a 10-round belter at the Bolton Whites Hotel. Afterwards Flatley’s face displayed the evidence of a man who had gone toe-to-toe in a non-stop action fight but he knows he will need to improve on that performance to triumph in Spain.
“I’ve got to be a lot better than I were in that fight because you look at Kerman and he’s a strong fighter,” he says. “There were a lot of mistakes I made in that fight even though I won the English title. Over the last two years all I’ve done, even though I’ve not been the most active, is just improve. I think it’s still to be shown when I fight a high level of opponent. And on Friday this will be the best version of me by far. Like I said it’s not just been one training camp, this is 17 years in the making so tune in.”