Crolla Completes Fairytale Comeback

By Mark Whalley

  • Mancunian Crolla upsets the odds to land first world title
  • Lee Haskins also becomes world champ after opponent Caballero fails to make weight
  • But Martin Murray endures another night of title heartbreak in Germany

Manchester, UK – Anthony “Million Dollar” Crolla capped off a turbulent 12 months by capturing the WBA lightweight championship, on a weekend that saw two more Brits become world champions.

It was supposed to happen in July.

Barely half a year on from being victim of an attack by two robbers that left him with a fractured skull and broken ankle, popular lightweight Anthony Crolla returned to challenge tough Colombian Darleys Perez for his WBA world title.

The narrative was perfect: the heroic Crolla, who was horrifically injured by a concrete slab when chasing two men who had robbed his next-door neighbour last December, fought out of his skin in front of a partisan Manchester crowd. He tormented a lacklustre Perez, whose frustration boiled over during the final rounds, causing him to be docked two points for low blows.

And yet when the scorecards came in, the fight was adjudged a draw. Whilst the majority of the UK boxing public reacted to the decision with anger, Crolla was dignified – stoic, yet dejected. Perhaps his earlier trauma helped put things in perspective.

The closeness of the bout warranted a rematch, and this time Crolla left nothing to chance, knocking Perez out with a punishing body shot in the fifth round.

The pre-fight worry was that Crolla – with four losses on his CV and not particularly regarded as a world champ “in waiting” – gave the fight of his life in the summer, and would not carry the same element of surprise to a seasoned champion in Perez second time around. But instead the defied the doubters, and won with the fight’s first punch of real significance.

The first four rounds were close affairs, with Crolla perhaps pulling ahead through his use of cleaner body shots and uppercuts.

Yet when the end came, it came from nowhere.

Setting things up with a right to the head, Crolla’s follow-up left hook to the body was a pearler, and Perez’s face as he crumpled to the ground was a picture of agony. He never so much as threatened to get back to his feet.

Not bad for a fighter who knocks out fewer than 40% of his opponents. The extra “oomph” in Crolla’s punches were symbolic of a man who has improved immeasurably over the course of his career.

He can now enjoy Christmas in far happier circumstances than last year, as champion of the world.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of Martin Murray, whose move up to super-middleweight to challenge “King” Arthur Abraham for the Armenian’s WBO world title ended in a split decision loss.

In truth, he looked second best throughout most of the contest, with his only real success coming in the eighth round when an overhand right clearly shook the champ. However, he failed to capitalise and by the time the ninth round started, the danger had largely passed.

Surprisingly, he won 115-112 on one judge’s scorecard, but the other scores of 116-111 and 115-112 better reflected Abraham’s superiority.

King Arthur cannot be a popular man on Merseyside. His victory over Murray follows two consecutive wins over Liverpool’s Paul Smith.

For Murray, this was the fourth time he has fought for a world title and not won. He was unfortunate not to get better scorecards against Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez, before becoming another victim of the terrifying wrecking machine Gennady Golovkin, but he can have few complaints here.

His displays in all four fights prove he belongs at world level, but having come up short each time the 33 year old must now be considering retirement.

Finally, Crolla was joined as new world champ by “Playboy” Lee Haskins, who triumphed not in the ring, but on the scales, when scheduled opponent Randy Caballero weighed an astonishing five pounds over the 118lb bantamweight limit.

Haskins rightly declined to take the fight at a catchweight – fighting a heavier opponent carries a significant amount of danger, and the last thing he should do is risk serious hurt against somebody whose lack of professionalism would translate to a big advantage in the ring.

Haskins therefore joins a club of 11 Brits with world titles. But in his own words, he will only feel a legitimate champ when he beats someone in the ring.

That number could become 12, depending on results next weekend. James “Chunky” DeGale travels to Canada to defend his title against the dangerous Lucien Bute, whilst Tyson Fury becomes the latest man to challenge heavyweight legend Wladimir Klitchsko, terrifyingly known as “Dr Steelhammer”.

DeGale’s assignment is tough – and his bravery in fighting away from home should be commended – but he should have too much variety for a Bute, who has never been the same since his mauling by Carl Froch.

Fury, on the other hand, has his work cut out in ending a 12 year winning streak held by Wladimir. He has the size and youth to prevail, but does he have the mentality or the chin? Expect a knockout loss early.

Main Image credit: Dave Thompson/Getty

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