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Maurice Hooker prepared for Terry Flanagan on June 9: ‘They are really overlooking us’

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Maurice Hooker and his team are ready to get to Manchester and fight for a world title.

Maurice Hooker v Darleys Perez Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Maurice Hooker is now in his third camp with Terence Crawford, and his crew believes that influence, and Hooker’s overall maturation as an athlete, will come together and put him in the best light possible when he travels to England and seeks to gain the vacant WBO 140-pound title against Terry Flanagan.

I chatted with Hooker and his crew, which included trainer Dave Parra and manager Arnie Verbeek, before another workout session in Colorado Springs, where Team Crawford is getting ready for Bud’s June 9 scrap against Jeff Horn in Las Vegas.

“The first camp I was a sparring partner for Terence,” Hooker told me. “Things I’ve picked up from Crawford, I’ve learned to be patient — it’s been a lot of hard work — and to push each other. The way he trains, he trains hard, he’s always going hard, three times a day.”

Hooker (22-0-3; age 28; from Dallas, Texas) thinks that because of the caliber of work he’s getting in this camp, Flanagan (28 years old), in contrast, could be an easier foe than what he’s been dealing with in sparring.

“I’ve faced guys way tougher than him,” Hooker told me.

Hooker is a Roc Nation fighter, and is overseen by Parra. The tutor thinks his guy will impress mightily in England.

“Flanagan and promoter Frank Warren are believing he’s coming in safe, and to go there, to Britain, it’s all the better. We will keep up the tradition of Tim Bradley and Terence Crawford, go to their backyard and let them know, the sport was born there but we’ve perfected it to a higher level here. Maurice has been in with higher-level people, though we take nothing away from Flanagan. He’s a champ but a lot of that was a great promoter and great matchmaker.”

Boxrec will tell you that the 33-0 Flanagan’s last three foes have been 42, 35 and 34. He snagged the vacant WBO lightweight belt in 2015, beating Jose Zepeda, and then bested Diego Magdaleno, Derry Mathews, Mzonke Fana, Orlando Cruz and most recently, Petr Petrov in April.

“Maurice has to be active, we have to fight our fight, make Flanagan uncomfortable. We’ve seen some things we’re working on,” Parra continued. “It’s a search and destroy mission. If he comes to box he’s a dead man against an 81-inch reach, and if he comes to Maurice, we’re prepared for everything.

“We see a winnable fight. We understand we’re the underdog, we’re used to it. We know we have to make the fight. They are really overlooking us, they watched one fight, and Maurice had a horrific injury.”

He’s referring to the November 2016 draw against Darleys Perez.

“If it wasn’t for the bad night against Darleys, we wouldn’t have gotten this fight, though. My guy has nine first round KOs. Shoot, we’re OK with that, l think we have the better skills all the way around.”

For the last four months, Parra’s been watching Flanagan. No Netflix and chill, it’s been Flanagan and more Flanagan, and he thinks he sees holes to exploit.

“June 9 we will see Maurice put it all together.”

Regarding that injury reference, Team Hooker says that Hooker’s ear drum was busted two weeks before the Perez fight, and it was misdiagnosed. He had to fight most of the fight with it broken, so he got on his roller skates.

“He was able to keep a former world champ at bay, it showed a lot about his character,” Parra insists. “Now we’re ready to go to Manchester, let the big guns fire!”

Manager Verbeek said that Hooker’s ear drum was busted up, and in fact, replaced, with tissue and matter fashioned in better-than-it-was style by an ace doc, who’d done work on Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali.

Hooker said he’s not worried about the replacement part.

“I would fight with a busted ear drum again!” he said.

If Team Hooker is right, and it’s all coming together now, they will be in a position to perhaps take advantage of newfound leverage. Verbeek didn’t care to say how long the Roc deal is for, but he said they will want to maximize the leverage and work with people who are able to pay handsomely for talent. He loves Eddie Hearn’s deal with Perform, Verbeek mentioned, and they want the best at 140 when they down Flanagan.

“Mike, I like to do deals where everybody benefits,” Verbeek mentioned.

And then it was time to end the call, another training session beckoned.

Hey, Maurice, any last words, I asked.

“Punch him in the mouth,” Hooker said, chuckling. We all did, and then I asked that the “him” not be me.