By Rory Fitzgerald
Let’s go back in time to three years ago – when a 25 year old Anthony Crolla lost to Gary Sykes in a three round fight in the lightweight Prizefighter tournament semi-final. The reverse was the Manchester man’s fourth defeat of his 28 fight career.
Now, let’s say someone told you that a man with such a record would be challenging for a world title within two years. How would you have reacted? Laughed maybe? Given some sort of a sarcastic response? What ever the answer, you would not have expected it to happen.
One man has achieved what seemed the impossible, and his name is Anthony Crolla.
“Million Dollar” was on the card in the packed out 02 arena in Dublin on the 15th November last year, when he faced little known Hungarian Gyorgy Mizsei Jr in a six round contest. Crolla won every round of that bout, and when he sat down beside Eddie Hearn to do his post fight interview, Hearn had HUGE news for the Manchester man.
Anthony Crolla would be fighting for a world title in his hometown and the date set was 23rd of January 2015.
It was an unbelievable achievement for Crolla, who has had so many ups and downs in a career that would not be out of place as a ride in a theme park. The people who had doubted him two years earlier were certainly not doubters anymore and people firmly believed he had what it took to beat the WBA world lightweight champion (at the time) Richar Abril.
Crolla had gone unbeaten since his defeat to Sykes and seemed to look more impressive and confident everytime he laced on the gloves.
That is when diaster struck.
Crolla got involved in an incident. Perhaps other people might have looked the other way or contacted somebody in a position of higher authority. He didn’t have to get involved, but that is the nature of the 28 year old, widely regarded as one of the nicest guys in boxing. What Crolla suffered that fateful night was an act of pure cowardly violence and was put in a position where nothing he trained for in the ring could prevent it from happening.
In the late afternoon of 16th December, Crolla was sitting in his home in Oldham when he noticed two men climbing into the back garden of his next door neighbour’s home. Acting on pure instinct the lightweight puncher went out to confront the men and gave chase when the burglars ran off.
When the brave Manchester man caught up with one of the men, he was savagely ambushed. While taking hold of one of the men, the other man showing complete disregard for human life, picked up a concrete slab and hit Crolla across the head with it before both men ran off.
After the attack, which left him with a fractured skull and a broken ankle, the 28 year old gathered all the courage he could find to somehow make it back to his home where his partner rang for an ambulance.
The savage beating meant that Crolla had to call off his “dream” of a world title fight with Abril, but more importantly left him fighting for his life.
But dreams never die when you have a heart as big as Anthony Crolla.
Amazingly, after the brutal attack that happened only 8 short months ago, he is back in the ring this weekend fighting for the WBA world lightweight title.
“Million Dollar” has managed to overcome everything the doctors had told him he couldn’t do. If hearts won fights, Crolla would hold every belt on offer in the lightweight division.
The whole of Manchester, England and everybody who loves an emotional boxing story will be hoping Crolla can defeat Darleys Perez in the M.E.N on Saturday night.
If dreams do come true, Anthony “Million Dollar” Crolla will hear the famous words…. “and the new” in front of all his beloved fans.