- Lightweight Flynn will return to the scene of his greatest triumph
- The Scot won Commonwealth Games gold back in 2014 at the Hydro
- The 23-year-old will be on the undercard at Ricky Burns’ title fight
The cheeky chappy with the great line in verbal zingers, back in the place where he first shot to nationwide fame. It only seems right, even natural, that one of the country’s most popular entertainment venues should play host to the Charlie Flynn Show once more.
Indeed, given the roars, cheers and belly laughs provided by everyone’s favourite scamp during a glorious summer of Scottish sporting success, it’s a wonder that the SSE Hydro didn’t invite Flynn back before now. A spot on the undercard as Ricky Burns competes for another world title on May 28 is the least such a popular turn deserves.
Yet, behind the banter and the perky personality that won Flynn so many admirers during Glasgow 2014, the 22-year-old former postie — ‘The mailman always delivers!’ was his Commonwealth Games war cry — is a hard and unyielding competitor. He has to be, if you think about it.
returns to the ring for his first televised fight since the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
Sure, a Games gold might not have been enough to convince absolutely everyone that the kid could box. Age-old prejudices against the amateur art apparently now extend to the International Olympic Committee, presently trying to tempt pros into the Rio ring.
Seven bouts into his own professional career, though, Flynn has willingly confronted everything thrown at him. Learning quickly, being force-fed tricks of the trade that make the pros so much more durable than their brethren in the red or blue vests, the boy from Newarthill feels like a new man. Certainly a different fighter to the one who generated so much electricity at the Hydro last time out.
Speaking about the one-liners that helped separate him from even his fellow Team Scotland gold-medal winners, Flynn insisted: ‘They just came into my head. I don’t know what I was thinking — they just came out naturally.
‘In any case, I want to be known for what I do in the ring, not what I say outside it. I got to where I am through boxing and the bottom line is that I’m a fighter.
‘The more often people see me in the ring, the more they’ll realise that there is a serious side to me.
‘For example, I train three times every day. I look after my diet and I live the life, you know what I mean?
The Newarthill fighter will face off against Jordan Ellison from the north east of England
‘In time, people will understand how much hard work goes into this but, at the same time, it’s good that they know I’m down to earth.’
Flynn is certainly that, his everyman ability to connect with the public potentially priceless to any promoter smart enough to recognise it.
Eddie Hearn seems to understand what he’s got, speaking in glowing terms about the up-and-coming prospect — and his ability to shift tickets, in particular.
With an opponent yet to be named, the onus is on Flynn to entice people into believing that they will be entertained almost regardless of who he faces.
The polar opposite of two-time world champion Burns when it comes to whipping up interest via the media, lightweight Flynn — his face still swollen from his last fight, a points win over Jordan Ellison at a Glasgow hotel — actively seeks the limelight.
‘I’d been focusing on my fight last weekend, but as soon as I heard that I was on this bill and that the show would take me back to the Hydro, I couldn’t wait,’ he said.
‘When I turned up for the Press conference on Monday and saw the place again, with Eddie Hearn and the TV cameras, I was buzzing. It all came flooding back to me and I got an adrenalin rush.
The 23-year-old will be on the undercard at Ricky Burns’ title fight on Friday night
‘I’m so excited about this show and there’s a chance I could have a 10-round Celtic title fight, which will make it even better.
‘This is a great venue for boxing. It’s circular, it generates all this noise into the ring. It’s unreal.
‘My biggest memory of winning the Commonwealth gold medal there is the noise. Before going in, we were standing on this mad plywood floor and it was shaking so much you could feel it going right up to the back of your neck.
‘Everyone was stamping on the ground and we could feel that and, once we got out there, all we could see was this sea of heads. There’s going to be a great atmosphere again come May — and knowing that I’ll be on the bill and part of the build-up is brilliant.
‘This is where I belong. I’ve been at a few of Ricky’s world title fights. I was there when he beat Roman Martinez at the Kelvin Hall to become champion for the first time. That was loud as well.
‘The Scottish fans are always loud. I’ve been to a couple of Billy Joe Saunders’ fights down south and there’s a good atmosphere at them, but Scots have a weird, mad passion for boxing. They all go mental and it’s great to see it.
‘It gives the boxers a lift, too. I can usually shift a few tickets for dinner shows, but these ones should be a lot cheaper and that will mean there will be a massive crowd. I’m really looking forward to it.’
Stepping into the professional ranks is never an easy transition, even for the most gifted of fighters. Flynn talks with feeling about how he has had to toughen up his body to take more shots. A trace of a wince passes across his bow as he describes it all.
The Scot won Commonwealth Games gold back in 2014 at the Hydro in Glasgow
He’s been in the ring with Scott Harrison, who he rather understatedly calls ‘a hard puncher.’ Yes, that’s one way to put it. Trying to survive for 12 rounds against a destructive force of nature like that is bound to sharpen the survival instincts.
‘You also pick up the wee tricks from the senior pros, like the way they use their head and their elbows, the ways they try to turn you,’ added Flynn.
‘They punch you on the hips and do loads of other things to get you off balance, and that’s how you learn. It’s good to go in with guys like that and I’ ll be sparring with Ricky Burns before this show. You need to get in the ring with these guys to be able to learn from them.’
Few of his elders could teach Flynn much about promotion, a skill that comes naturally to a guy who genuinely did not expect to become such a celebrity on the back of his Games performances — but who fully anticipates creating an even higher profile as a professional.
‘I just see it as something that needs to be done,’ he said of the media commitments that come with the public adoration
‘It doesn’t matter whether or not you like it. When it comes down to it, it’s part of your job. That would be like saying: “I don’t like skipping” — you still have to do it.
‘Even when I won the gold medal, I didn’t think anything of it in terms of people maybe recognising me. And then everyone started coming up to me and it started building and building.
‘Whenever I went anywhere at night, everyone was going mental and I was like: “What’s going on here, man?” It was non-stop.’
Laughing as he recalls those days, Flynn turned deadly serious as he nodded towards Burns — aiming to become the first Scot to win a world title at three different weights when he takes on Michele di Rocco — and said: ‘Three or four years down the line, I want to be in the position Ricky is in now.
‘That’s definite, 100 per cent. I’m 22 now so, by the time I’m 25 or 26, there’ s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be fighting for world titles in Glasgow.
‘I can see me fighting at The Hydro and pulling in the crowds — that’s what we’ re here to do.’
Tickets for Ricky Burns vs. Michele Di Rocco are on sale now priced £40, £60 and £100 from here