What seemed like an impossible dream continues to play out for British boxing’s most beloved active figure.
A good looking, well spoken and down to earth family man. A real life hero after a 2014 incident in which Anthony Crolla confronted two burglars robbing a neighbour’s house.
A Manchester lad born and bred, Crolla’s reputation only soared when he returned, just over 6 months removed from the attack, to fight for a world title in his backyard. Crolla had done enough, it seemed, to relieve Darleys Perez of his WBA Lightweight title. But the final scores brought about a contentious draw.
The rematch last November saw a fitting end to their fight. A more aggressive Crolla 31-4-3(13KO’s) produced a stunning body shot to halt Perez in the 5th.
In May of this year, Ismael Barroso came back to the UK with a fearsome reputation. He had just ended the career of London’s Kevin Mitchell.
The challenger was in front on all three scorecards, but in round 7 Crolla finally broke down Barroso for another stoppage win.
Now for the soon-to-be 30-year old, it is his date with destiny as he faces arguably the number 1 Lightweight in the world.
Jorge Linares 40-3(27KO’s) is a former three weight world champion, standing without defeat since back-to-back stoppages at the hands of Antonio DeMarco (L TKO 11) and Sergio Thompson (L TKO 2) in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
At 31, Linares has endured a successful but taxing career. He has been involved in many wars, coming out on top on most occasions. Including last May when he held on to his WBC Lightweight title against Mitchell (TKO 10). The challenger was ahead when his eye ballooned up through damage caused by the fists of Linares.
Suggestions are that the well-travelled Venezuelan is coming to the end of his journey, having not fought since October last year due to injury. It was injury that cost him his title – now in the hands of undefeated Dejan Zlaticanin.
The past successes of Linares overwhelm what Crolla has done in the ring. But it is Crolla finding his finest form in the here and now.
And Linares may be well aware of this as well. He had the opportunity to reclaim his WBC title against Zlaticanin, but one does not have to dig up the facts to assume with great confidence that Linares is earning a lot more for challenging Crolla than he would have on an undercard in the States challenging the hard hitting Montenegrin.
Linares is a fine operator when on top, but there have been question marks over him when the going gets tough.
Crolla has been on the wrong end of a beat down himself in the past, but it seems that a revived Crolla is now the one dishing out the punishment inside the ring.
However, Perez was never the most accomplished world champion, and Barroso’s conditioning was horrendous as he was spent after just 5 rounds.
Now what will happen when the heavy hands of Linares begin to land in the second half of this contest? Will the wheels come off the track against his most accomplished rival?
But this encounter on Saturday night seems to be all about momentum. And in spite of a 9 fight unbeaten streak, Linares is not the man coming in red hot.
The fans will be locked in a frenzy from the first to the last as two warriors lock horns in a possible fight of the year at the Manchester Arena.
Linares can still produce at this level, but Mitchell exposed enough limitations for Crolla to feed off of.
Crolla will start the better, with Linares finding his moments in the middle rounds. Crolla will need to summon a second wind to halt Linares’ momentum, which he can find as his punches begin to take their toll on the visitor.
Linares will tire, but Crolla will not have the energy himself in the latter stages of an exhilarating contest. Crolla will be far ahead come the final bell, setting up a potential blockbuster with Mancunian WBO champion Terry Flanagan in a Manchester derby that will divide the city.
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