ANTHONY CROLLA: THE MILLION DOLLAR MIRACLE
“Oh Anthony Crolla” rings out around Manchester Arena as Crolla jumps onto the ropes, screaming “MANCHESTER!” at the top of his lungs. It hasn’t been easy, but he has reached the top of the mountain, the pinnacle. He is the World Champion.
Anthony Crolla was born in Manchester in 1986, and bleeds Manchester United. Anthony's father, Wayne, was a professional boxer himself, holding a record of (16-12 KO 3).
Crolla enjoyed success in his amateur career. In 2004, he picked up a silver medal in the Chemnitz City Cup in Germany losing in the final to Marcel Herfurth. A year on from his silver medal performance and Crolla went one better claiming the gold after defeating Marco Lebeda.
In 2006 Crolla claimed the big one on the British amateur scene as he claimed the ABA national championship, overcoming Chris Pacy in the final. Crolla then repeated his feat from the year previous and managed to grab the gold medal in Chemnitz, before setting his eyes on turning pro.
Anthony signed a professional contract with Frank Warren’s Queensbury promotions in 2006 and made his debut on the undercard of Joe Calzaghe’s world title defense against Sakio Bika. In front of a home crowd at the MEN Arena, Crolla was given the 40-36 verdict over Abdul Rashid (1-0 KO 0).
After racking up eight wins in his opening eight-fight, Crolla was matched against Youssef Al Hamidi (3-8-1 KO 1). In a huge shock, Al Hamidi scored the victory by a single point. Crolla rebounded from the loss with a win over Robin Deakin (1-10 KO 1) on points. Million Dollar then avenged his only career loss to Al Hamidi (4-10-1 KO 1) beating him on points.
After racking up some more wins Crolla was matched against Gary Sykes (11-0 KO 4) in a British Super Featherweight title eliminator. Sykes was an up and coming prospect and entered as the favorite for the fight. Sykes was awarded the decision by referee Richard James Davies by a score of 97-94 over the ten-round distance. After rebounding with a points victory at the Velodrome in Manchester, Crolla got handed a tough task against former IBO World Champion and fellow Mancunian Michael Brodie (36-3-1 KO 24). Brodie was on the comeback trail after taking three years away from the sport, but Crolla stunned the crowd at Robin Park Centre in Wigan by stopping Brodie in the third round of a scheduled ten.
Crolla landed overhand rights at will in the third round and Brodie was on shaky legs, he was then put down with a stunning combination that ended with an overhand right. The former champion beat the count at nine, but referee Steve Gray waved the contest off, handing Million Dollar the biggest win of his career to date.
After ending the comeback of Michael Brodie, Crolla set his sights on the English Super-Featherweight crown. After three more wins Crolla was given his shot at the vacant belt against Andy Morris (19-3 KO 7). Crolla came through with a seventh-round stoppage of Morris to claim the vacant English Super Featherweight title. Crolla got his first main event slot in his very next fight as he moved up in weight to fight for the vacant British Lightweight championship. Anthony was matched up with scouser John Watson (13-1 KO 5). Watson entered as the favorite over Crolla having only tasted defeat once in his previous 14 outings, that defeat came at the hands of former WBA World Champion Gavin Rees (33-1 KO 16). In a rough and tough fight, Crolla stopped Watson in a mild shock to claim the vacant British belt.
In the first defense of his newly minted crown, Crolla travelled to Motherwell, Scotland to take on Glasgow native, Willie Limond (34-3 KO 9). In the main event of the evening, Crolla put on a masterful boxing performance to silence the noisy Scottish crowd earning a shutout on all three scorecards winning by 120-108 on two scorecards and 120-109 on the other. In his next outing, he was matched with popular scouser ‘Dirty’ Derry Matthews (29-6-1 KO 15). Derry and Anthony would headline the show in Oldham, and it would be the Liverpool man who would pull out the victory handing Crolla his first-ever stoppage defeat by getting rid of the champion in the 7th round.
Crolla expressed his interest in a rematch with Gary Sykes next. Crolla entered into the Prizefighter tournament. In the quarter-finals, Crolla defeated Stephen Jennings (5-1-1 KO 2) by decision over three rounds. Crolla would then get the rematch he wanted against Gary Sykes (20-2 KO 5). Crolla out hustled Sykes in the opening round, but Sykes outworked Million Dollar in the second and the third to earn himself a split decision win over Crolla.
Crolla rebounded from the close defeat by winning the English Lightweight Title. He handed unbeaten Kieran Farrell (14-0 KO 3) his first defeat on points, winning 99-92, 99-93 and 96-94 on the judges' scorecards. Crolla then got a chance for redemption against Derry Matthews (32-8-1 KO 17) for the vacant Commonwealth title. By the end of the bout, both men were bloodied and battered, but for Matthews and Crolla there would be a disappointment as, after an entertaining fight, the fight would be ruled a split draw. Judge Ian John-Lewis scored the bout 115-113 in favor of Crolla, Judge Marcus McDonnell scored the fight 115-113 to Matthews, but judge Steve Gray had the fight 115-115, a draw.
Crolla would be given a big fight against former WBA world Lightweight champion Gavin ‘The Rock’ Rees (37-2-1 KO 19). In another tough bout, Crolla would be handed the decision in a close contest. Judges scored the fight 115-113 and 116-113 for Crolla whereas one judge had the contest a 115-115 draw. Crolla now held wins over two former world champions in the shape of Michael Brodie and Gavin Rees.
After beating Stephen Foster (31-4-1 KO 18) Crolla was given a tough fight against fellow Manchester native John Murray (33-2 KO 20). Crolla found himself being outworked and outboxed by Murray but pulled out a come from behind knockout victory over the former world title challenger. Crolla got Murray out of there in the tenth round to claim a major win, and Murray would retire after the contest.
Many felt Million Dollar was closing in on a world title shot and after a technical draw with Gamaliel Diaz (39-11-2 KO 18) after an accidental headbutt and a shutout win of Gyorgy Mizsei Jr (20-11 KO 12) it seemed that Crolla was so close to the world title shot that he could almost touch it. But then, disaster struck.
It was announced by Eddie Hearn and Matchroom promotions that Anthony Crolla would challenge WBA world Lightweight champion Richar Abril (19-3-1 KO 8) in January. Whilst in training for the bout Crolla would receive major injuries that included a fractured skull and a broken ankle after pursuing two burglars who had attempted to burgle his neighbor's house. After catching up to one of the robbers Crolla was hit over the head with a concrete slab. Anthony underwent surgery and was told that he would likely never box again by doctors and that he was lucky to be alive.
Miraculously Million Dollar would box again. And after returning to training it was announced that he would challenge WBA world Lightweight champion Darleys Perez (32-1 KO 20). Throughout the buildup, Crolla was heaped with praise and shock that he was returning to the ring only six months after the horrific injuries that left his career in tatters.
On the night there was a cacophony of noise inside the MEN arena. Crolla boxed patiently and Perez had points deducted for persistently low blowing in the 11th and the 12th round. It seemed like Crolla had done enough to be given victory on the scorecards. As the final bell went Crolla dove onto the ropes and was lauded with admiration from the Manchester crowd. The scorecards were read out as 111-116 Perez and 113-113 a draw on the two scorecards. The fight was ruled a majority draw. The result was tough to take for the crowd as they were desperate to see their hero crowned champion of the world. Crolla, however, took in his stride, like a true champion.
The immediate rematch was announced, and Crolla trained as a man possessed for the fight. When the night rolled around it was cagey for the first four rounds. The fight was close, and it seemed that the crowd would be in for another nail-biting night. However, Crolla landed a stunning left hook right into the sweet spot of the Colombian’s body to put Perez down in the fourth round.
Perez would not beat the count and Manchester would have one of the most memorable wins in recent British boxing history. Million Dollar hoisted himself onto the ropes and screamed at the top of his lungs “Manchester”. This was his home, his night and his world title. But now the tough work would begin, Crolla now had a target on his back as world champion, and he knew it.
Crolla’s first defense of his WBA crown would come against dangerous, hard-hitting Venezuelan Ismael Barroso (19-0-2 KO 18). Many pundits had predicted this to be one of the toughest nights of Crolla’s career and if he could get through this, he would have a great shot against anyone in the division. Crolla would be outworked for the majority of the opening rounds, Barroso threw every shot with power and it began to show on Anthony as his face began to redden and he was cut over his right eye in the fourth round. But, just like the Perez fight, Crolla unloaded on a tiring Barroso and once again produced a brilliant body shot, this time a right hand, to take the unbeaten man out in the 7th round. Crolla was riding high with two wins over two world level opponents, but his biggest test was yet to come.
Anthony Crolla would next meet former two-weight world champion Jorge Linares (40-3 KO 27). Linares was a formidable opponent but Crolla was here to fight the best and would never duck a challenge. On the night Crolla performed admirably but would drop his world championship to the Venezuelan. The fight was close on the scorecards which read, 115-113, 115-114 and 117-111 in favor of Linares. Linares heaped praise on Crolla after the fight and praised the former champion on a tough fight.
The Linares-Crolla episode was not done here though and Crolla got an immediate rematch with the new world champion. The rematch was set for the Manchester Arena and fans packed the venue for the fight. This time though, it wasn’t close. Crolla was outboxed from the get-go, even finding himself on the canvas after a beautiful corkscrew uppercut from the champion. The scorecards were much wider this time with a score of 118-109 on all three scorecards. Crolla gave no excuses after the bout acknowledging that he lost to the better man on the night. A brief move up to Super Lightweight was considered by Crolla but ultimately, he chose to stay at Lightweight.
Seven months after his defeat at the hands of Jorge Linares, Crolla got on the comeback trail by fighting former three-weight World Champion Ricky Burns (41-6-1 KO 14). Burns had just dropped his WBA Super Lightweight championship in a unification fight with Julius Indongo (21-0 KO 11). The contest was a close one but ultimately the verdict was given to the Mancunian Crolla.
After two wins against Edson Ramirez (18-2-1 KO 8) and Daud Yordan (38-3 KO 26) Crolla would be given the toughest task in boxing, working out a way to beat the ‘Matrix’ Vasily Lomachenko (12-1 KO 9). The fight would be for Lomachenko’s WBA and WBO world Lightweight titles. Crolla was written off by experts and was listed as a major underdog for the fight. In his first fight in America, Crolla was knocked out cold by the great Ukranian in the fourth round. After the fight Crolla hinted that his next fight could very well be his last fight in boxing.
Million-dollar Crolla announced that he would be boxing on the Katie Taylor card in Manchester. How fitting that it will be Manchester's favorite son set to have one last dance in front of his faithful crowd.
Despite his nickname of Million Dollar, Crolla is far from flashy, he is hardworking, honest and humble and fans will fill the Manchester arena to see Crolla dazzle the crowd, one last time.