If ever the boxing cliche "win today, look good the next time" held true, it was in Terry Flanagan's latest title defense.
The unbeaten lightweight was hardly pretty in turning away the challenge of Petr Petrov, but did enough to prevail over the course of their 12-round main event Saturday evening at Manchester Arena in his hometown of Manchester, England.
Scores were 116-112, 118-110 and a laughable 120-108 for the local favorite, as Flanagan racks up his fifth successful title defense.
It was a rough go from the outset, the type of style that is right in Petrov's wheelhouse. Flanagan adapted and conquered, boxing early until he realized he had to bite down and fight as Petrov was never going to stop coming forward. The Mancunian bragged heading into the night that he'd never previously lost a round. He did so here, despite the blinded insistence of Mikael Hook's 120-108 scorecard.
Petrov was surprisingly most effective from the outside, scoring with long right hands despite being at a considerable height and reach disadvantage. He also looked good when managing to work his way inside and target Flanagan's body, but was sloppy in trying to lead with left hooks. Flanagan was in control any time he remembered to work behind the jab, but his best moments came in counterpunching mode which of course didn't make for the most aesthetically pleasing night at the office.
Still, it was enough to build up a sizable lead and force Petrov into desperation mode late in the fight. The Spain-based Russian also had to contend with a cut over his right eye from an accidental headbutt - hardly uncommon in matchups between southpaws and right-handed boxers - as he went for broke in the 12th and final round. He went for the knockout, but it not only never came but left him open for Flanagan to pick him apart down the stretch in preserving his unbeaten record and title reign.
Flanagan advances to 33-0 (13KOs) as he remains champ. The reign began with a 2nd round injury stoppage of Jose Zepeda in June '15, followed up by a career-best performance in torching Diego Magdaleno in two rounds later that October. His stay near the top of the division has since leveled off, scoring wins versus a pair of miserably overmatched opponents in Derry Matthews and former 130 lb. titlist Mzonke Fana.
In that regard, Petrov at least reminded Flanagan what it was like to be involved in a real fight. Thus, it comes in a losing effort as he snaps a six-fight win streak in falling to 38-5-2 (19KOs).
Next up for Flanagan is a mandatory title defense versus Felix Verdejo - should the unbeaten Puerto Rican lightweight want the opportunity. To date, his team has yet to express serious interest in pursuing such a matchup as he continues to rebuild his injury-prone career.
The bout aired live on BT Sport and BoxNation in the United Kingdom, and streamed live on Twitter in the United States.