This Friday night, Manchester’s favourite boxing son, Anthony Crolla, is the first of two Britons looking to overhaul the lopsided odds on the road, against a pair of international, pound-for-pound superstars.
The WBA and WBO Lightweight champion of the world, Vasyl Lomachenko, has redefined many laws of boxing with his jaw dropping speed, athleticism and agility.
At the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Crolla is looking to defy the odds, while Lomachenko is looking to defy logic.
There is no shying away from the fact that this is a near impossible undertaking for the popular Crolla 34-6-3(13KO’s). He is a former world champion himself, but two losses to Jorge Linares was likely as far as Crolla could go. Lomachenko presents a far steeper rise in opposition than that of the world class Venezuelan.
Lomachenko 12-1(9KO’s) rubbished worries that he had moved up one too many divisions, when standing 5’7” he rose from the canvas to end Linares’ reign in the 10th of their epic encounter last May.
A shoulder injury denied Lomachenko instantly capitalising on becoming a three-weight world champion in his 12th fight. But he still returned before the year was out, beating WBO champion Jose Pedraza on points.
Pedraza fought out of his skin, and for much of the first half of the contest, looked well in the fight, maybe even ahead. But as the fight progressed, Lomachenko shredded the rust and surged in a frantic 11th round, dropping Pedraza twice, coming within inches of a 9th straight stoppage win.
The shoulder not being entirely ready for action may have been the reason for Pedraza’s successes in that meeting, but Crolla and his team will take it as encouragement that Lomachenko can be brought down to earth.
Since dropping a second unanimous verdict to Linares, Crolla has hit back with three points triumphs, the most recent being a hard fought win over Daud Yordan to earn him this shot on the road.
It is the first time that Crolla has been under the glitzy lights of an American arena since 2011 where he outpointed Juan Montiel over 8. And there is every possibility that this fight does not see a 9th round either.
If there is one thing that Lomachenko is not elite in, it is punching power, but 9 knockouts against world rated opposition in three weight classes, suggests that even his lesser assets are outstanding.
Crolla is the perfect representation of the ‘never say die’ attitude, and he won’t be going down in LA without a monumental effort.
But that monumental effort will only be enough to remain competitive for short spells. Lomachenko’s accuracy is as intimidating as a fighter with one punch knockout power, and that in itself will keep Crolla in check.
It will be a brave effort, but by round 7 it will have become obvious that the master of his craft is just waiting for his moment to finish the contest. As the pressure from the world number 1 increases, Crolla will turn to all his experience to hang in there, but after a knockdown or two, the finish will come in round 8 or 9.