Terry Flanagan is seeking the big name opponent his career has so far lacked after grinding out a unanimous points win over Petr Petrov on Saturday.
The Briton made a fifth defence of his WBO world lightweight title but it was messy and hard work at times against Russian Petrov at the Manchester Arena.
Neither were in any trouble and nor did Flanagan (33-0, 13 KOs) dominate for long spells as he struggled to stamp his authority on the fight.
Flanagan boxed at range to defuse the aggression of Petrov (38-5-2, 19 KOs) and finished strongly to earn scores of 116-112, 120-108 and 118-110. Flanagan was not in complete control as one of the judges saw it and he regretted not going for a stoppage win.
“It was a tough fight and he’s very durable,” said Flanagan.
“I knew I was winning the fight comfortably and I was a bit cagey at times. Perhaps I should have stepped it up a bit and forced the stoppage. I probably should have upped it a bit.”
Along with his promoter Frank Warren, Flanagan is now talking up the possibility of future fights against the likes of WBA world lightweight champion Jorge Linares and two-time world champion Vasyl Lomachenko.
“I need those big fights to get me up for it,” said Flanagan.
Despite holding the longest undefeated record in British boxing and a world title belt, Flanagan lacks the profile of other UK boxers and is desperate for a big fight.
Flanagan is a quiet man of few words out of the ring but hoped to make some noise with this performance.
However, this tussle with Petrov may not have been the sort of performance to send out a warning to the likes of Linares or Lomanchenko.
“Terry says he wants a big fight and there are a couple big ones out there but they are tough ones, Linares and Lomachenko,” said Warren.
“I think they can be done, I’m convinced they can be done, unless Linares fights Mikey Garcia. Linares is the one I want to make and Terry’s going to have to raise his game — and he can do that.
“The tougher the opposition the more you’re going to get out of him because there’s a fear factor.”
But Flanagan was always kept in a fight by Spain-based Petrov, who rocked the Manchester southpaw late in the second.
Petrov, 32, had not been beaten since losing on points to Dejan Zlaticanin four years ago and he was full of confidence against Flanagan, with the first half of the fight being close.
Flanagan, 27, had the cleaner work, with more accuracy, and boxed well behind his jab but Petrov had a good fifth round, unloading a cluster of body shots with the Briton penned against the ropes.
Petrov could not sustain the attack and Flanagan was unthreatened for the next few rounds, with plenty of scrappy moments.
Petrov, who shrugged off Flanagan’s best shots, kept marching forward while Flanagan kept picking him off. Petrov was tough and had to battle through impaired vision from a cut in the 11th – but he kept throwing punches until the final bell.