Jack Flatley: I’m Really Excited For The Next Couple Of Years
By Oliver McManus
Six months ago Jack Flatley was gearing up to face Anthony Fowler for the WBA International super-welterweight title in the biggest fight of the Bolton man’s career. That particular bout was set for March 7th: exactly two before the pandemic curtailed the sport for nearly four months. Flatley, however, was forced to withdraw from the contest on March 3rd owing to a broken bone in his foot.
Speaking to me, over the phone, in preparation for his Commonwealth title challenge against JJ Metcalf (on October 10th), Flatley suggested with the benefit of hindsight that it was the ideal time to get injured.
“At least I wasn’t missing out on anything (and) everyone was brought to a standstill. Obviously you never want to get injured but doing it at that time made sure I wasn’t able to rush back into a fight when I wouldn’t have been fully fit. It’s one of those where if the (Fowler) fight had been rescheduled for May, as they were looking at, I’d have been at maybe 70% but I know I wouldn’t have turned that fight down. In that sense it’s a blessing in disguise because it made sure I took my time in letting it heal and now I’m going into camp with full confidence and full fitness.”
Flatley returned to the gym in August with head trainer Alex Matvienko. Matvienko – the ‘One Man Riot’ – was a professional boxer from 2005 and 2010 before retiring with a record of 15-1-3. The 42 year old, based in Bolton, is building a solid reputation in Lancashire and Flatley explained how influential Matvienko has been on his career.
“Alex and I have been working together for a while and I think he’s really starting to establish himself as a coach. I’ve known him since 2013 when I had sparred Chris Jenkinson and Alex took over for my last two seasons as an amateur – got to the national finals together – and I feel like he’s been adapting in that time. He’s deceptively experienced and is still looking for new ways and keeping things fresh: he learned a lot from Oliver Harrison, been involved in world title fights and took Luke Blackledge to the Commonwealth title so he really has achieved quite a lot.”
With the niggles of doubt and injury behind him, top-class sparring was next on the agenda and you can’t get much better than a former super welterweight world champion.
“I’ve sparred with Liam Smith and quite a lot with Sion Yaxley. He’s up from Wales every week and we’ve been doing plenty of rounds together even before this fight was announced. It’s good to be in with Liam because that’s the kind of level that every fighter is aiming towards so you can just rub off his experience. With Sion, he’s in a similar position to me (6-0) and wants to look good in sparring: he’s got that energy and enthusiasm.”
Last year was bittersweet for the man known as Quiet Storm: the 25 year old secured the first title of his career with a thrilling win over Craig Morris (for the English strap) before being defeated by a razor-thin decision in his first defence against Harry Scarff. Reflecting on that first bout, Flatley told me it was a fight that would live with him forever:
“I enjoyed it at the time because you’re getting caught up in the moment and just bouncing off the adrenaline. When you watch it back, though, you kind of realise you can’t have too many of them in your career because you’re leaving yourself open an awful lot. Even though I won that fight I do think it’s the one I learned the most from. Craig was with me pretty much throughout the fight and it showed me that, really, if you take a step back sometimes and just reset things that it’ll pay off a couple rounds down the line. It’s fun for the fans and it’s fun whilst you’re in it but it does highlight things to work on.”
Those ten rounds against Morris was a culmination of lessons learned since Flatley’s debut in October 2015. The most important lesson was that, for the three years, he had been boxing at the wrong weight and it took a tussle with Troy Williamson for the youngster to realise that.
“Yeah I was definitely at the wrong weight because I just wasn’t big enough, if I’m honest and obviously Troy has decided the same, too. I were down twice in the first round but I found out a lot about myself that night: that when I do come across adversity I am able to grit my teeth and keep going. That fight, just the same with the Craig Morris and Harry Scarff fight, have put me in good stead for October 10th.
(The rematch) makes sense given the course that we’re both on. At this stage it seems more likely than not that it’ll probably happen naturally at some point so it’s not something I’m really thinking about, to be honest.”
Attention returned, swiftly, to the challenge in front of Jack Flately on October 10th. JJ Metcalf, seven years older, has been knocking opponents out for fun as of late and Flatley was cautious not to take too much confidence from shared sparring,
“I’ve sparred him a fair bit in the past but I’m not one to read too much into that. I had good moments when we sparred and he had good moments, too, but it’s dangerous if you base a plan solely on that experience. Me and Troy obviously fought each other as an amateur and he turned up on fight night completely differently so I think it’s important just to focus on yourself and what you do best.”
“I know he’s been knocking a few lads out in his last few fights and maybe he thinks that’ll be the case on October 10th but we’re preparing to take it hard for the full 12 rounds.
A win on the Liam Williams vs Andrew Robinson undercard would secure the Commonwealth title and doors aplenty would surely open. That’s the immediate priority but, in the mid-term future, there is serious optimism about the quality of domestic opponents looking for a dance partner.
“I’m really excited for the next couple of years. There are plenty of prospects coming through at super welterweight (domestically) that have yet to really establish themselves as a step above British level. Where I’ve obviously been English champion and, now, fighting for the Commonwealth title, my name should really be in the mix at that level. With the exception of Kell Brook you’ve probably got a dozen fighters at super welterweight that feel as though they’re around the same level.”