FOLLOWING a well-earned lay-off Jack Flatley returns to the scene of his best fight since turning professional, looking to hand himself an early birthday present.

Flatley turns 22 tomorrow and is hoping to celebrate by extending his flawless professional record to six wins as he takes on Jozsef Toth at the Macron Stadium tonight.

Farnworth’s finest may have chalked up five wins from his five outings since joining the paid ranks but trainer Alex Matvienko says he needed to take time away from the ring after a hectic year and a half.

“Jack had had a tough 18 months, he’d been through five pro fights in a row and just hadn’t had much rest,” said the trainer from Halliwell’s Elite gym. “He had his first stoppage win last time he fought at the Macron but he got out of the ring and said how tired he felt.

“And we could see how he was tiring, his body just couldn’t do it so we had to give him a good rest.

“I would say 12 months earlier he wouldn’t have taken on board what we and his body were telling him but he is maturing well and he realises he has to listen to what his body is telling him.

“After that little bit of time out he’s back, refreshed and ready to go again. His preparation has been pretty smooth, it usually is with Jack, he’s had a 10-week camp that has been changed slightly, this is the first time he’s had a six-round fight, but he’s pretty excited about the match.”

Flatley, who earned the nickname ‘Giant Killer’ as an amateur, has had one minor setback in his preparation, since original opponent Mike Byles dropped out of the match last week, prompting Matvienko to move swiftly to draft in Hungarian Toth, who has had one win and one loss.

“It happens a lot,” explained the Elite trainer. “People get cold feet close to the date, or sometimes just turn down an offer to fight straight away.

“But we’re used to it and this kid is an aggressive, durable, tough fighter and it’s all part of Jack’s learning curve. We don’t want him in wars every time he gets in the ring but we don’t want him having walkovers either. He’s still learning and building towards title matches.

“He is still a work in progress but he’s a very good work in progress.”

Also on the bill at the Macron are British title prospect Luke Blackledge, who takes on Josef Obeslo, and former North West Amateur champion Mickey Ellison, who makes his debut against winless Bryn Wain, bouts Matvienko is confident his charges will succeed in.

On a busy night for him, the trainer is also lending Metro gym’s Tommy Battle a hand with his debut fighter, Jack Cullen, who boasts arguably the region’s best nickname, ‘Little Lever’s Meat Cleaver’.

“These lads are all quality fighters and the boxing scene is as strong as it has ever been locally,” added Matvienko.