'A mad old road': Anthony Crolla interview

Shaun Brown
03/10/2017 10:32pm

As his eagerly awaited Anglo-Scottish clash with Ricky Burns approaches on Saturday, Anthony Crolla talks to Shaun Brown about the "special people and special nights" that have defined his career...

The rise of Anthony Crolla is well documented. A feel-good tale starring a good guy who crossed the crossroads against Kieran Farrell, recovered from a horrific attack at the hands of two burglars and achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a world champion.

A nice guy that seems to be always smiling, always positive and has proved himself to be a fighter that thrives on the big occasion.

The occasion on Saturday night at the Manchester Arena may not have the glamour of Jorge Linares and his partner coming to town to face Crolla as they did in 2016 and 2017, but his showdown with Ricky Burns is a good old fashioned domestic tussle the likes of which British boxing fans rarely refuse.

Scotland’s Burns will be on Crolla’s patch this weekend. A man who can match the Mancunian in the likeability stakes but is potentially one loss away from having to make a decision on a career that has over achieved and thrilled many.

“It’s good to be finally getting it on,” Crolla told Boxing Monthly. “When I say finally getting it on I don’t believe that it’s an end of career fight for us. I see it as we’re both hungrier than we’ve ever been, because we know what’s at stake in the sense that the winner’s next fight could be for a world title. Whereas the loser has a tough road back, or whatever they decide to do. There’s an awful lot at stake.

“We’re both very hungry fighters, both very proud fighters. We’ve both dug deep time and time again, and there’s certainly no reason why we wouldn’t anyway but there’s even more added to this fight for the pair of us.”

Crolla and Burns are two men whose paths have crossed with smiles, handshakes and conversation, who have tested each other in sparring and who have always looked likely to face one another be it in Burns’ backyard of Glasgow or 200 miles south of the Dear Green Place.

Now, perhaps long overdue, the pair will pack away their respect for one another in attempt to breathe new life into their careers.

“Our paths have crossed and we’ve nearly fought a good few times, and it’s gone away and come back,” said Crolla. “I’m in boxing for these big nights and I see Ricky as a fantastic fighter. I think the last time we sparred was seven years ago and that’s scary, because it doesn’t seem seven years ago. I don’t see how our styles can fail to deliver a good fight. It’s a fight that I’m really looking forward to.”

Crolla could scarcely believe that his career had reached 40 fights when BM reminded him of the fact.

Time has flown by for the 30-year-old. He’s had good times and bad times. The former has certainly outweighed the latter in Crolla’s mind.

“What I wanted out of boxing was to become world champion and to try and get my house paid off, and I’ve achieved both of them.

“Ups, downs, bumps whatever you want to call it. It’s been a mad old road. It’s took me to some very special places, met some very special people and give me some special nights. I don’t regret a bit of it.”

The win over Kieran Farrell in 2012 saw Crolla embark on a run of special fight nights. The rematch against Derry Mathews, the wins over John Murray, Darleys Perez and Ismael Barroso have given boxing fans in Manchester plenty more memories to pack into their treasure trove that already contains Hatton & co.

And despite being on the wrong end of two defeats to the majestic Linares, Crolla used both occasions as learning experiences and saw no shame in being beat by a man who is vying for lightweight supremacy with Mikey Garcia, while Manchester’s other favourite lightweight Terry Flanagan (the WBO champion) is also itching to get in the mix.

If Crolla’s first fight against Linares, in September 2016, was a case of close but no cigar the rematch in March this year saw the sumptuous Linares take that cigar and crush it before his opponent and now friend could barely get a look at it.

“I can go back to being a fan of him!” Crolla laughed. “I genuinely believe my fights with him have made me a better fighter. Last time I got beat well. Don’t want to contradict myself but it weren’t like a savage beating. I got well beat but it was the kind of fight where I learned from and I think it’s made me a better fighter, sharing those 24 rounds with him. Like I say I still believe I’m improving. I look forward to going out to try and show that on 7 October.”

Crolla offers no excuses for the one-sided nature of his loss to the Venezuelan. Both men did their homework, both had a game-plan but one performed better than ever.

“After the fight you should be disappointed that you lost, but I got over it in the sense that I gave it everything. I simply lost to the better guy.”