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Anthony "Million Dolla" Crolla


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Anthony Crolla was one of the best British lightweights of this century. Although his career had its ups and downs, he managed to win the WBA title once and also fought for the WBA Super title and WBO title against Vasyl Lomachenko. Crolla was a fast and technically good fighter who was a good body puncher. He was also rather tough and was only stopped twice, once by premature stoppage against Derry Matthews and once against Lomachenko, in the twilight of his career. Let's take a look at his career.

The Manchester-native Crolla was born 16 November 1986, to a father whose family descended from Italian ice cream salesmen who settled in Manchester. This gave him his dark good looks and the unusual last name. His father Wayne was also a boxer at super welterweight and retired with a record of 16-12. As amateur, Anthony was the 2004 silver medallist at the Chemnitz City Cup in Germany and a 2005 gold medallist at the same tournament, both at 57 kilos (126 pounds). He also won this tournament in 2006 and that same year he became the ABA champion, this time at 60 kilos (135). He turned pro on 14 October 2006 and beat Abdul Rashid on points. He was undefeated in his first 8 fights, before losing for the first time on points against Yousef Al Hamidi, by 76-77. After winning 5 more fights, he again lost by a 10-round decision to Gary Sykes, who was 11-0 coming in, 29 May 2009 in Stoke on Trent. 

Later that same year, on 27 November, he stopped the former world class featherweight Michael Brodie by TKO3. He fought at 130 pounds early on and won the British title by stopping Andy Morris by TKO7 on 2 October 2010, but then vacated it to move up to 135, where he would make his mark. On 12 February next year, he took on John Watson, who was 13-1, that one loss coming to the excellent Gavin Rees, for the vacant British light title. Crolla was impressive and stopped Watson by TKO9 in Liverpool. On 25 November same year, he made his first defence against Willie Limond of Glasgow and won by a shutout UD. He fought Derry Matthews of Liverpool in his second defence, 21 April 2012 in Oldham and after being down in round 3, he was taking punishment in round 6 when the ref stopped the fight, obviously prematurely as Crolla was still on his feet and fighting back. He was also cut above the left eye in round 4, but otherwise was not hurt enough to be stopped so early. He then took part in the Prizefighter tournament on 6 October and after winning by UD3 against Stephen Jennings, he lost to Gary Sykes again in the second round, by a split decision.

After Matthews had lost the British title to Gavin Rees, Rees vacated it and Crolla got to fight for it against 14-0 Kieran Farrell in Manchester on 7 December '12 and won by UD10. Farrell collapsed after the fight and was taken to hospital, but survived. He then rematched Matthews in a fight for the vacant Commonwealth title on 30 March next year at Echo Arena in Liverpool. He was again cut over the right eye, but gave Matthews a bloody nose and mouth before the end of the fight. In the end, two of the judges scored it 115-113 for each fighter and the third scored it a draw, which of course became the official result. Crolla then fought Gavin Rees, "Welsh Wizard" and defied all expectations when he beat him by MD in a close fight on 29 June in Bolton. With that, he won the WBO Intercontinental title. He would make 3 defences of that title, first stopping Stephen Foster by RTD6, then scoring an impressive TKO10 against John Murray (who came in at 33-2) and finally, fighting to a technical draw against Gamaliel Diaz. Last two fights happened in 2014.

On 18 July 2015, he got to fight for the vacant WBA title against Darleys Perez of Colombia at the Manchester Arena, but the fight ended as a disappointing draw after Perez got two points deducted for low blows. One judge had Crolla clearly ahead by 116-111 but the other two scored it 113-113. A rematch was then issued and happened on 21 November at the same place. This time, there would be no decision as Crolla hit Perez with a perfect left hook to the body which made him unable to beat the count in round 5. Two of the scorecards were even at the time and one had Crolla ahead. Finally, after 9 years, the "Million Dolla" Crolla had done it! He made his first defence on 7 May 2016, again at the Manchester Arena, against 19-0-2 Ismael Barroso of Venezuela. It was a good fight and Barroso cut Crolla over the eyebrow in round 4. Crolla was behind on all scorecards when he once again connected with a perfect punch to the body, this time a right hook, which put Barroso down and out, unable to continue. 

He was then given his biggest fight yet against Jorge Linares, where also the WBC Diamond belt was at stake. Linares came from Venezuela to fight him at Manchester Arena on 24 September '16. He turned to be just a little too good for Crolla and rocked him in round 6 with a right hook to the head, but Crolla lasted the distance, only to lose by 114-115, 111-117 and 113-115. Impressed by his performance and toughness, Linares gave him a rematch on 25 March next year and again came to Manchester Arena. This time, Linares was more dominant and put Crolla down in round 7 with a left uppercut, in the end winning by 118-109 on all three cards. Crolla rebounded from his second straight loss by beating Ricky Burns by UD12 at Manchester Arena on 7 October that year. In 2018, he beat Edson Ramirez and Daud Cino Yordan, by UD10 and UD12 respectively. He then received the biggest fight of his career, against then-p4p king Vasyl Lomachenko, who held the WBA Super and WBO titles. For the first time in his career, Crolla went to USA to fight Lomachenko at Staples Center in LA, 12 April 2019. Crolla was naturally no match for the superior and faster and younger Ukrainian and was stopped in 4 rounds, after he was knocked down by a right to the temple and the count was waived. He was also down in the previous round. 

He had his farewell fight on 2 November that year at Manchester Arena against Frank Urquiaga and won by MD10, after again getting cut over the left eye in the first round. Crolla was nearing his 33rd birthday when he announced his retirement and retired with a record of 35 wins, 7 losses and 3 draws, scoring 13 knockouts. Early on, Crolla was not considered a hard hitter, but he developed into a good body puncher. That he managed to knock out two top fighters like Perez and Barroso was truly an amazing performance which were his two best ever. In retirement, he remained a popular figure and now runs a gym in Oldham which unfortunately burned down in March 2020, but he rebuilt it since. He works as a trainer and occasionally appears on boxing matches coverage as a guest commentator. Anthony Crolla was a fighter who seemed to improve and has had a career which surpassed the expectations, after suffering several losses earlier. He came to fight, had a true warrior mentality and was tough, fast and well conditioned. He was also a rather good technical boxer, but by the time he fought Lomachenko was definitely past his prime. Even if he wasn't, he could have hardly done much better. You might say Crolla was somewhat of an overachiever, but he definitely deserved it because of his perseverance and hardworking mentality.


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