Boxers are often subjects of great admiration due to the courage and bravery that they display in the ring. However, when a fighter shows that they can stretch their warrior spirit during turbulent circumstances both in and out of the ring, they can also provide us with inspirational tales worthy of legend.
Anthony Crolla is one such example. Personal and professional setbacks lead to him being dismissed as a serious contender, but the man with a humble nature has confirmed defiantly that if ever he is to be written off, he will do all he can to tear up the script and rewrite it with a happy ending for himself.
In 2012 after suffering two defeats in three fights, including a devastating stoppage defeat to Derry Mathews and a second loss Gary Sykes he was matched with hot prospect Kieran Farrell. Many believed Crolla to already be past his best and was expected to be a springboard for which Farrell could elevate himself to bigger things. However, tragedy struck in a stunning upset, as Crolla defeated Farrell but in doing so leaving him seriously injured and forced to retire from boxing. A bittersweet lifeline for Crolla’s career which brought him back to relevance but could have left him with psychological scars as damaging as any he may have sustained from fighting in the ring. After sharing the spoils in a rematch with former nemesis Derry Mathews, ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla managed to retain enough focus and beat the odds again to earn victory against former world titlist Gavin Rees.
He continued to demonstrate great improvement and desire, racking up three more victories and a draw by the time he built enough momentum to which he was finally granted a potentially life changing opportunity. A chance to fight for a world title in front of his adoring fans in his hometown of Manchester against WBA Lightweight Champion Darleys Perez. The dream almost remained to be just that. When Crolla heard a disturbance in his next door neighbours garden he noticed two burglars attempting to break in, which prompted him into action. He chased the burglars but when one turned and attacked him with a slab of concrete he was knocked unconscious and broke his ankle in the subsequent fall. Luckily enough he to recovered and his fight with Perez was rescheduled. Before the assault, many doubted that Crolla had the ability to succeed at world level, but after it there were worries that he would fight hesitantly considering the head injuries he had suffered just a few months earlier. Instead he fought valiantly with the champion but to the disdain of the partisan crowd, the bout was declared a draw. Remarkably in the following rematch, Crolla took matters into his own hands, literally. He beat his foe into submission and ended the contest with a bruising body shot and in doing so, becoming what few had expected of him; a world champion.
He had achieved an incredible feat and one would not have begrudge him a soft opponent in his first defence especially considering the steep mountain he had to climb to reach the top. However, he agreed to challenge himself against the feared boogeyman of the division Ismael Barroso. A winner of 19 fights, with 18 knockouts, he had previously defeated Crolla’s countryman Kevin Mitchell who he bludgeoned in brutal fashion. Many predicted a short reign as champion for Crolla and upon watching the first few rounds of the fight where Barroso perpetually bombarded bombs at Crolla, this looked to be a serious possibility. Once again Crolla showed spectacularly, unwavering belief as he weathered the ferocious storm unleashed by the challenger. He proved his incredible conditioning and discipline, as he patiently waited for this vicious puncher to empty his energy tank. A risky but rewarding tactic, Crolla pounced on his exhausted foe. Reducing the contender from being a powerful predator into a shrivelled shrew, with a volley of punches and punctuated him with a debilitating body shot to end the contest.
Most recently he fought in back to back contests with the sublimely skilled Jorge Linares. With the opportunity to become The Ring Magazine Lightweight Champion, he fought tooth and nail with Linares and once again showed exceptional zeal albeit in losing efforts against the superior skilled Linares.
After these incredible achievements and examples of rising in the face of adversity, Anthony Crolla would have been forgiven had he relented to any of these mental, physical and emotional setbacks. The early career defeats. The Farrell tragedy. The assault from burglars. The controversial Perez decision. The ruthless barrage from the brutal Barroso. If he had wilted during any of these situations, it would have been understandable given the enormity of the challenges. But Anthony Crolla displayed admirable fighting spirit not only in body but also in mind. He combined his skill with a tremendous amount of determination and desire. An unbreakable will which aided him to leap above and beyond the hurdles of adversity which took him from being seen as a domestic stepping stone fighter to challenging for The Ring Lightweight Championship.
He has provided us with an inspirational story, one for people of all ages to look at and take encouragement from, that when setbacks are suffered you must work hard, persevere, be patient, determined and maintain belief to achieve your goals. He may not be a special fighter like Jorge Linares, but the bumpy journey Anthony Crolla embarked on, made him a special man.