Perched behind a fan-made ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla banner on the rafters of Oldham Sports Centre, I witnessed Derry Mathews throw the most important punch of his career; that right-uppercut that buckled Anthony Crolla in round three — and left him anything but comfortable at home — secured ‘Dirty’ his first Lonsdale strap. Now, Mathews has a chance to reclaim the 135lbs golden waist-piece and secure his local legacy amongst the likes of Johnny Cooke and Nel Tarleton.
Derry was handed his first British title shot on the back of a disappointing dismantling from rhythmic southpaw, Emiliano Marsili. Funnily enough, the Italian had vacuumed the air of expectancy from Scouse lands in a similar manner to which Stephen Ormond tormented the ECHO Arena in December (Mathews’ last fight). If anyone can come back from failure though, it’s the 30-year-old. A warrior mentality and gracefulness in defeat have allowed the Liverpool man to pen himself marquee showdowns following losses — something very few are lucky enough to accomplish.
Derry once told me that boxing was about ‘putting bums on seats,’ and he always does—albeit on the very edge of them. No doubt Saturday night will prove no exception to the ‘heart in mouth’ scenario that normally comes with supporting the former WBU featherweight ruler. Following a training camp in Marbella and some seclusion from his new wife and family, he told the ECHO preparations have been intense… a focused Derry is a dangerous one.
The Walsall champion, Martin Gethin, suggested a ‘boxer will beat a puncher’ in the build-up, while Mathews told BoxNation, “Gethin more or less gave up in his world title eliminator and I intend to make him quit again on Saturday.” The Derry ABC founder could seek to imprint his dominance early on by getting his trusty right-hand firing. Gethin may well adopt a similar back-foot blueprint to that of his sparring partner, Crolla, from his second encounter with Mathews in order to feel his way into the fight amidst hostile support. If eventually the pugilistic niceties are swallowed into the trenches, then Mathews should prevail and get to hoist a monument of sporting history above his head once more.