If much of the focus in the build-up to fight night at the Manchester Arena was on the precarious futures of both headline fighters, Ricky Burns and Anthony Crolla, should they lose, then hope for the future of Scottish boxing was provided by Charlie Flynn and Joe Ham on the undercard, with both Scottish fighters winning every round on their way to victories over Liam ‘Rocco’ Richards and Jose Aguilar respectively.
Flynn was stepping into the ring for the first time since a technical draw against Ryan Collins back in April due to an accidental clash of heads, but there were no signs of rustiness from the Mailman as he dominated from the off, following in behind the jab to repeatedly pin Richards into the corner.
The Newharthill fighter looked in superb condition and was sharp in the early exchanges, knocking some of the bounce from the step of the lively Richardson with some crashing right hands within the opening minutes.
Using his left-hand jab to control his opponent, Flynn was able to maneuver the Englishman precisely where he wanted him to go, and continued to dominate as the fight maintained its pattern throughout.
Richardson had only been stopped once in 50 previous fights, so there was little surprise that the contest went the distance, but he has rarely been beaten more soundly than this. Flynn was never in any danger as he returned to competitive action, and the six rounds were completed with the minimum of fuss.
After so long out of the ring, it is perhaps understandable, if a little ambitious, of Flynn to attempt to squeeze in another two bouts before the end of 2017, but he should be fresh enough to give it a go after this polished performance.
“I just wanted to get out there and enjoy myself again,” Flynn said.
“It’s been tough being out, but I took control and managed to get my shots off. Slowly but surely, I began to dominate and I controlled the fight.
“I want to keep the fights coming now, and hopefully get another couple in before the end of the year. Maybe one of those could be a title shot, we’ll wait and see.”
Ham was similarly dominant against Barcelona fighter Aguilar, with the Gorbals man all over his opponent from the off and recording an easy victory to maintain his own unbeaten record in his twelfth professional bout.
Ham had originally been scheduled to fight England’s Ricky Starkey, but a last-minute change brought the tough Aguilar in front of him. The 26-year-old took the switch in his stride though, and much like Flynn, was well worth his 60-54 victory to get the night off to a flyer from a Scottish perspective.
There was another win for a fighter with a Scottish connection as Scott Cardle, whose father hails from Glasgow, got a 59-56 decision over Lee Connelly.
Elsewhere, there was a shock for the home crowd as Sam Eggington lost his European welterweight crown to mandatory challenger Mohamed Minoune on a split decision.
One of the most impressive performances of the night came from Connor Benn, the son of Boxing legend Nigel and training partner of Ricky Burns in the lead-up to the clash with Crolla. Benn had Nathan Clarke down twice before the referee called a halt to the fight within the first round, and on this evidence, the destructive power of the 21-year-old may lead him to bigger and better things in the future.
Then, the stage was set for the main event. If the size of the task facing Burns as he stepped into Crolla’s backyard was in any doubt, the pre-fight atmosphere simply confirmed it, with the huge crowd singing their man’s name with increasing gusto and frequency throughout the undercard.
The Scottish contingent were vastly outnumbered, but they were gamely trying to overcome the odds that seemed to be stacked against them, much like the man they had travelled to support.
The performances of his young proteges, Flynn and Ham, had given them hope.