By T.R. Lewison
Anthony Crolla has enjoyed an outstanding career to date and bounced back from previous setbacks to secure incredible success and ensure he adds to the evidence that nice guys don’t always finish last.
The Manchester-born fighter is one of the most popular Britons punching for pay in the modern era and his amazing story has since been published in a new book, a tale of Lazarus like recovery from potentially career-ending injuries to fairytale triumphs before his army of ardent Mancunians.Crolla’s ready smile and good nature came to national prominence three years ago as he was busy preparing for a challenge to Richard Abril of Cuba, the custodian of the WBA lightweight strap, in January 2015.
On the eve of his world title bid, Crolla suffered horrific injuries after intervening to halt burglars at his next-door neighbours’ house. The now 31-year-old Briton suffered a broken ankle and a fractured skull during a vicious attack at the hands of two masked men.
The popular Mancunian was somehow able to catch one of the intruders during the break-in but was then brutally attacked by the other with a lump of concrete. Liverpool’s Derry Mathews was selected to replace Crolla in the title fight but instead fought Tony Luis, not Abril, who took the call on four days notice, and won the interim WBA lightweight title. World sanctioning bodies with conflicting financial and promotional aims ensure the world title landscape is a complex and shifting picture.
Despite an initial medical prognosis which concluded Crolla should be grateful to have his faculties and life in tact and that the prospect of boxing again, let alone recapture his status as a world-title challenger, was highly unlikely didn’t deter him. Like the famous precedent of Vinny Pazienza, a story so incredible it has now been committed to film, Crolla, defied medical opinion and returned to the ring in July 2015 to challenge Darleys Perez for the WBA Lightweight portion of the world title. The encounter ended in a controversial draw, another setback for the Manchester man, but he would ultimately prevail in a rematch with the Colombian and complete his fairytale, and by now widely told, story.
As the year draws to a close, and there remain a host of big-name bouts still set to take place throughout the remainder of this year, including Billy Joe Saunders putting his middleweight world title on the line against David Lemieux. The latter Canadian is actually seen as the outsider to emerge victorious in the online betting with Betsafe. It is hard to believe two and half years have already lapsed since Crolla’s seminal victory.
Since that success Crolla has tasted back to back defeats on home territory at the hands of stylish South American Jorge Linares, losing in a close first bout then being dropped and completely outclassed in their high profile second scuffle.
A win over Scottish rival Ricky Burns in October of 2017 saw the highly determined fighter keep his hopes alive for another world title shot and with the range of belts available another title shot appears on the horizon in 2018. As the old boxing truism insists, ‘it isn’t what you deserve its what your negotiate’ and whilst Crolla has come up short in two fights with a resurgent Linares there are sufficient belts available, and vitally, enough fans to buy tickets to ensure he will be a lucrative defence for many of the current champions. The argument about deserving a title shot, is a much more transient debate these days.
After beating Burns, Crolla outlined his desire to battle for a world title once again, and at 31, most likely for the last time in his storied career. Fellow Mancunian Terry Flanagan currently possesses the WBO belt and could be a future opponent in a clash that would bring their city to a standstill, but cross-promotional fights are few and far between and it is hard to imagine either Hearn or Frank Warren, who handles Flanagan, ceding ground to conjure that mouth-watering contest.
A War of the Roses contest with Luke Campbell, who performed so admirably in his own clash with Linares this summer and is also promoted by Matchroom Sports, and has also outlined intentions of facing Crolla in what would also be a sensational ‘crossroads’ fight, appears much more likely.
However the year unfolds, and how ever much further Crolla’s determination, resolve and body can take him, it is likely his popularity and the leverage this provides for his promoter Eddie Hearn, will ensures he gets one more shot.
And with the misfortune one of British Boxing’s favourite sons has already overcome, you wouldn’t bet against him adding one more golden chapter to his recent memoire.