Manchester’s finest Anthony Crolla prepares to enter the 44th fight of his career, and likely his toughest so far, against Vasyl Lomachenko.
32-year-old former WBA world lightweight champion Crolla will certainly send shockwaves through the boxing community if he pulls off the biggest victory of his career over the Ukrainian at the Staples Center, Los Angeles this month, the first time he’s fought in the USA since 2011.
Lomachenko has lost just once in his career, the unified light heavyweight champion currently 12 wins from 13, with nine coming from knockout, whereas Crolla sports a record of six defeats and three draws.
Crolla kindly took time out of his preparation to sit down with The Sportsman’s own Marc Gatford to talk about his life and career, as well as several life-changing incidents, ahead of the April 12th bout.
In 2014, the then-WBO inter-continental lightweight champion was attacked outside his home in Oldham after confronting burglars, the subsequent injuries ending his chances of making a WBA world title challenge against Richard Abril.
“A concrete slab came down, hit me on the head… fractured skull, a broken ankle in a few places, and put my boxing career in doubt.”
Having been candid about the extent of his injuries, as well as the repercussions it had on his well-being, when presented with a photograph depicting the aftermath of that event, showing Crolla laid up in a hospital bed, “I look at that picture and I just think I’ve come a long way.”
As a young, sports-mad, Manchester United fan, Crolla describes how he first got into boxing, going along to the gym with his father, a retired professional pugilist; “from an early age I’d always been a mad boxing fan” and that observing others in training and entering professional bouts led him down his career path; “if they can do that, then why can’t I do that?”
Crolla deflects the idea of the importance of a boxer keeping a clean record - a ‘0’ - without suffering defeat, but concedes his own bias after his own was blemished early one, and emphasises the effect certain figures have had on his career, including fellow Manc boxer Ricky Hatton and trainer Joe Gallagher;
“Joe’s had a huge impact on my career. If it wasn’t for Joe I would never had reached the heights that I’ve reached. He rebuilt me when a lot of people that I wasn’t going anywhere and I’ll be forever in debt to Joe for that.”
The interview turns to focus on two of the most important fights that have come to define Crolla’s success;
“Honestly, that is one of the most important wins of my career”, Crolla states about his 2013 defeat of Gavin Rees in Bolton, with the fight helping to elucidate on the precariousness of an up-and-coming boxer’s life. The win allowed Crolla to get a contract and consequently a deposit for his house for his family, retrospectively representing “a fine line, a massive turning point in my career.”
Jorge Linares, who defeated him in back-to-back bouts at the Manchester Arena in 2017 has now become a very good friend; “it was a pleasure to share the ring with him, he’s very very good.”
More lightheartedly, Crolla talks about meeting former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor and waded into Floyd Mayweather’s post-fighting career.
He also talks about TV gameshow The Chase on which he appeared with former football manager and I’m A Celebrity’s... King of the Jungle Harry Redknapp, who he has a “lot of time for”, and his love for reality show Love Island: “I don’t miss an episode when that’s on.”
Lastly, Crolla reflects on facing Lomachenko as the overwhelming underdog;
“He’s an unbelievable fighter, he’s unbelievably unique (but) I can’t wait to get over there and shock the world.”
Vasyl Lomachenko versus Anthony Crolla is scheduled to take place at 20:00 (PST) in LA, Friday 12th April, 4:00 (GMT).