Terry Flanagan overcomes a game and tricky Mzonke Fana to retain WBO lightweight title

Tonight in Cardiff, Wales, WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan had to go the full 12-rounds to retain his belt against South African veteran Mzonke Fana, to the surprise of almost everybody. Seen by most experts as too young, too strong and too powerful for the 42-year-old, Flanagan instead had his work cut out for him.

The 27-year-old southpaw got the win, via overwhelming scores of 120-106 three times, and he is now 31-0(12), but his critics will surely pounce on the fact that “Turbo“ was unable to get the KO. Former two-time IBF 130-pound champ Fana, now 38-10(16) proved way more than his age would suggest him capable of, namely how he remains a proud, slick and tough fighter, and Flanagan did not cut a happy figure both during and after tonight’s fight. Twice Flanagan downed the challenger – in the 4th and again in the final round – but he was simply unable to nail his man to the canvas.

Fana, far faster and more durable than anyone would expect considering his age and long career, used all of his experience to frustrate Flanagan and make him miss. There was only one winner all night (even though it was a little harsh of the three judges to fail to give the visiting fighter a single round) but Flanagan – who picked up a cut below the right eye due to a clash of heads in the 4th-round – said later how he “felt flat.”

The defending champion, making his third defence, was the aggressor all night and at no point was he hurt. Fana did use his fast and sharp right hand to good effect on occasion, landing to Flanagan’s head, but the much older man did not have the power to trouble the champion. Fana showed an amazing chin at times; especially in the 8th-round when he was hit flush by a nasty left uppercut – one of Flanagan’s best weapons – and stayed upright.

Flanagan was supposed to have fought Fana on July 9, only for the fight to be postponed until tonight due to the Tyson Fury-Wladimir Klitschko return fight bill being postponed, and maybe he was affected by this. It’s also possible that Flanagan simply tried too hard to get the KO.

His own worst critic, Flanagan said he must do better against this type of opposition. Perhaps this is doing the gutsy and still marvellously well conditioned Fana a disservice.