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Forget the belt, Flanagan and Mathews fought for local pride

Dave Thompson/Getty Images

Twice Terry Flanagan has been in world title fights, starting as the betting underdog in his hometown against overseas boxers and twice he stopped and dropped his opponents in two easy rounds.

On Saturday in Liverpool, fewer than 50 miles from his Manchester fortress, Flanagan started as the favourite but he had to fight every second of the 12 rounds to beat Derry Mathews. It was all about pride in the ring at the Echo Arena and Flanagan's WBO lightweight belt was reduced to a bonus prize for the winner.

At the end of 12 rounds, Flanagan was the victor, but Mathews had still defied the form book and satisfied his local fans in what was his 50th fight. In boxing strange things can happen when a bit of local pride becomes a factor.

It seemed that both left the ring believing they could have and possibly should have done more. Flanagan in victory was deflated and Mathews in defeat was dejected -- it is exactly the set of emotions I would expect in a fight where the gaudy bauble on display is the secondary prize to bragging rights, pride and respect.

I would argue both had their tactics right at times and both got it wrong at other times. Mathews was never going to quit and Flanagan was not going to simply march forward all night; it left a tense and tactical fight, not a slugfest with the pair knee-deep in gore. Flanagan will -- he has done so already, in my opinion -- knock out much better men and Mathews has been stopped by people nowhere near as dangerous as Flanagan.

As I say, pride warps the bloody paths of fights.

There are available champions at lightweight for Flanagan to chase and that seems to be his desire. The IBF champion is a Cuban defector called Rances Barthelemy, the WBC incumbent is Jorge Linares, who is injured, but the best fight would be against the WBA title holder Anthony Crolla. It turns out Flanagan and Crolla went to school together when they were children in Manchester. Now that is a local derby and Crolla and Flanagan genuinely have fans that run the local bakery, cab firm and pub. A fight for two world titles, between two Manchester boxers in Manchester sounds very nice, thank you.

Crolla, by the way, defends his WBA lightweight title against Ismael Barroso, the interim holder, at the Manchester Arena on May 7. Barroso is the type of truly dangerous fighter that stops any sensible man planning beyond their confrontation. And Crolla is a sensible man.

Barroso is 33, but looks 10 years older and is unbeaten in 21 fights with 18 ending via knockout. Last December he sent Londoner Kevin Mitchell into retirement when he stopped him for the interim belt; the win got him the Crolla fight, the savage details of the fight got him Crolla's respect. There is a chance that Flanagan lacked just a bit of respect for Mathews, who incidentally stopped Crolla in 2013. Funny old game, the boxing business.

And finally, there was another welcome glimpse -- buried in the 11 fights -- of Zolani Tete at the Echo in Liverpool. He's South African, a freak at bantamweight and he just might be one of the world's finest technicians. He will hound the two British boxers -- Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins -- that hold versions of the bantamweight world title.

Tete will fight here from now and his promoter Frank Warren did not hold back on the fighting talk after Tete's win when he was asked which one of the world champions he was looking at: "Zolani will beat McDonnell and Haskins on the same night, do me a favour." A bit of pride, respect and hype is what a night of boxing should be about.