As lights gleamed brightly and sweat poured from his brow, Mark Flanagan (25-8, 18 KOs) could have been excused for a selfish mindset following his last bout in Townsville in June.
After all, he had just made a successful return to the ring after a 19-month lay off, capturing the Australian Cruiserweight championship for a second time in the process.
More importantly, he stood unscathed after slugging it out with Ben Kelleher over five brutal rounds in front of a home town crowd.
Instead of using his time on the microphone post-fight to promote a dominant TKO win though, Flanagan utilised the platform to create a positive message for at-risk youth. At the heart of his speech was the power of connecting with life and pursuing an interest.
Over the rich and decorated history of the sport, the narrative of boxing’s redemptive powers for those in times of trouble has been often repeated. Flanagan’s story is yet another example of this.
As such, inspiring young people is a cause that occupies a special place in his heart.
“Growing up in housing commission for my whole life, I’d see a lot of my friends go down the wrong path. Some went to gaol, some got on drugs,” he told The Inner Sanctum.
“For a troubled youth, it’s very important for them to get into something. I just try and spread that message.
“You can put your efforts elsewhere, instead of running around stealing cars, breaking into houses and doing all of the other horrible things.
“Obviously for me it was boxing. It’s almost like a religion.
“This might not work for everybody, but it worked for me and it worked for a lot of people that I know.”
Flanagan’s deeper thoughts about life have gone hand in hand with reflection on his career more generally. Having fallen short in two World title bouts in the past, he admits that his individual goal posts have shifted.
While the 31-year-old remains in his athletic prime and of fervent belief in his ability, the goal setting process has become characterised by a short term focus.
To this end, Flanagan’s upcoming defence of his Australian title against Floyd Masson (10-0, 7 KOs) on December 4 is all that occupies his mind.
“At this stage I’m just trying to take one fight at a time,” he said.
“If I can keep racking up some wins, maybe I get an offer overseas for a good hard fight. Maybe I can pull off a couple of upsets overseas and find myself in a position for a third time to win a World title.
“I definitely won’t look past Floyd, though. He’s going to be a tough fight.
“It’s a hard fight and very winnable for both of us.”
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A slick southpaw with heavy hands, Masson looms as a serious challenge for ‘Bam Bam’, who is more than aware of the task at hand.
In fact, the pair have shared the ring in the past, each fighter serving as a sparring partner for the other. With each round that passed, the mutual respect between combatants grew.
For Flanagan, the evidence gathered from those sessions also adds to his excitement for a fight being billed as one of the best Australian contests of the year.
“We noticed that our styles blended quite well to make for interesting sparring,” he revealed.
“He’s a great guy, we get along quite well.
“When the fight was made, we both knew that it was going to be a great fight to watch, but also a hard and competitive one all the way through.
“Floyd’s a very fit, very strong guy and I know he’s going to be trying to come home strong in the latter half of the fight.”
Come the opening bell however, friendship will be cast aside, replaced by an overwhelming will to win at all costs.
With the desire to send a message to the wider community spurring him into action, Flanagan is determined to show that hard work defines a person for life, not circumstance.
Consequently, he aims to prove that he is worthy of the mantle of champion, both outside and inside the ring, by securing victory in devastating fashion.
“I’ll definitely be there to land some heavy shots and when I do, I’m going to jump all over the opportunity. I do plan on trying to get a stoppage in this fight,” he concluded.
“I know he’s got a high work rate, so I just need to make sure that when I land, I land hard.
“A lot of people stop guys, but I knock them out clean.”
ACE Boxing Group’s Flanagan vs Masson event goes down on December 4 and can be viewed live on their YouTube channel, here.
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