The British Boxing Scene: Jack’s Passion
It was many years ago, as a youthful amateur, that Jack Flatley fought the likes of Zach Parker, Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Cullen. Staggeringly, he even beat a future world heavyweight title challenger, Hughie Fury – in three out of four unpaid contests.
Now, as he looks to open Flatley Brothers Boxing gym with his brother, he’s open and honest when talking about his love of the sport after he spent eight months out of the ring earlier this year.
“The time where I’d not been fighting gave me time to sit back and think about what it is that I’m doing it for,” Jack reflected. “It’s not for money; there’s not a lot of money in boxing. I could be making more money elsewhere – It’s my passion.”
With a mightily respectable record of 21-4-1, the former English super-welterweight titleholder has only ever been bested by fighters who have held either a British or European crown (Nathan Heaney x2, Harry Scarff and Kerman Lejarraga). Even his sole drawn bout was against a former British champion, Troy Williamson.
Earlier this year, Flatley made a change in his training team. Departing from longtime coach Alex Matvienko, he’s since linked up with multi-time world title challenger, Martin Murray.
“I was with Alex Matvienko for nine-and-a-half years and there was no bad blood or anything like that,” the 29-year-old from Bolton explained. “I just thought I needed (a change) because I was 28 at the time, I’m 29 now, so I just needed a change to get the most out of my last few years of fighting. I don’t imagine I’ll be one of those fighters who goes on until he’s 40. I reckon it’ll be closer to 30 rather than 40 when I finish.”
Making sure to put on record his praise for Matvienko, Flatley feels the move to St. Helens is the spark to ignite the next stretch of his career. The added presence of fellow 154-pounder and friend, Jack McGann, at Murray’s gym will be of benefit to both Jacks.
“Martin’s fought for a world title five times. He’s a great guy and I just thought it’s a good fit. I mean he fights in the style that I like to watch. I just thought I could pick things up off him which I am doing so far.”
Murray cornered Flatley in his recent comeback victory against a Lithuanian joureyman. But, without disrespecting the term journeyman, the eastern European had stopped a 6-0 prospect in Grimsby in the away corner, just six weeks earlier. Flatley was able to grind him down inside four rounds.
“I felt strong being back down close to 154 pounds,” he said. “It was definitely shown to be a good result. Before, I hadn’t had a stoppage in five-and-a-half years. It was definitely needed. He’s not got the best record on paper, but some of the people that he’s beat are good names. He’d only been stopped three times before that in 40 fights. I put him down three times.”
In 2022, Flatley was offered an irresistible chance to make his mark on the British scene. A fight on the Joe Joyce vs. Joseph Parker pay-per-view undercard, in Manchester, was too good to turn down, despite it being at a weight division above where he’d won English honours and challenged for the European championship. Stoke’s popular ticket-seller, Nathan Heaney was to be his opponent.
A brutal head clash put a halt to their first clash, as Heaney prevailed on a technical decision. Their rematch, six months later in Telford, was a cracking contest that entertained the TNT Sports audience, as Heaney again took the decision.
“In the first fight, I thought I was really gaining momentum into it,” Flatley remarked. “I do still think that I would have taken over at the end, but in the second fight I think he realised he had to raise his game a little bit. He boxed well. I watched it back and had myself losing, admittedly, by two rounds, which was close enough.”
The hugely popular pugilist from Stoke has since outpointed former world title challenger, Denzel Bentley, illustrating his level, whilst claiming the British middleweight championship. It slightly softens the blow for Flatley, knowing he was defeated by a top class middleweight.
“He’s proved he’s no mug. He’s just won a British title against Denzel Bentley when everyone was writing him off. In a way, I think that was (the media and fans) underestimating me a little bit by writing him off, to say he had a close fight with Flatley, he’ll be easy work for Bentley.”
Watching Flatley’s two clashes with Heaney, I couldn’t help but notice the size differential. One: a bonafide 160 pound fighter, the other: a super-welterweight in disguise.
“I always walk around fairly heavy, to be honest. I’m not big enough for middleweight. The opportunity came up and I just got back off holiday. My coach, Alex at the time, rang me and said this opportunity is there: Manchester Arena. I’m not the type of person to say no to opportunities like that.”
As 2024 dawns, Flatley hopes to box at least three or four times this year, with the dream of another title shot on the horizon.
“I’m hoping my next fight is an eliminator for a big title. If I do come through that then I’ll challenge for the title. I’m hoping to go down the Commonwealth title eliminator route.”