This time we look at the recent opponents of Anthony Crolla, who can move a step closer to returning to world level with a win over two weight IBO world champion Daud Yordan on November 10th.
5. Darleys Perez (21st November 2015, W KO 5)
An impressive way for Crolla to avenge the majority draw of four months earlier. Perez, who had given a good account of himself in the opening four rounds, found himself being marched down by the determined Mancunian, who sunk in a vicious looking left hook to the body with 45 seconds of the round remaining. Perez couldn’t answer the 10 count, and Crolla became a world champion at the second time of asking.
For Perez, this loss precipitated a decline in form. A second round KO of countryman Ubadel Soto 6 months later marked his return to the ring, but he was fought to a draw against the talented Maurice Hooker at the end of 2016. No harm in that – Hooker is now a 140lbs world champion – but knockout losses to Luke Campbell and then to Maxim Dadashev have diminished his stock in recent months. He is clearly feeling the difference at super lightweight, but at 35, may not be able to shed the pounds to return to his former division.
4. Ismael Barroso (7th May 2017, W KO 7)
Barroso’s punching power was on conspicuous display when he thumped Kevin Mitchell into retirement in his previous bout, setting up the maiden defence for Crolla’s WBA world title. Crolla, however, in the form of his life and with a Manchester crowd behind him, was a force of nature. He surrendered the early rounds but Barroso was spent by the halfway mark. Crolla, prepared for this onslaught, turned aggressor, and broke the will of the Colombian in the 7th with a right hook to the body.
As with Perez, a slump in Barroso’s form followed. He returned 15 months later with a knockout victory over Fidel Maldonado but has lost his two bouts of 2018, firstly to Isa Chaniev, then to Batyr Akhmedov, both of which were at inter-continental level. Another 35 year old with no fight in the near future, it is hard to see where Barroso goes from here. He will always have a punchers chance, but that will unlikely bring him victory against the top operators.
3. Jorge Linares (24thSeptember 2016 and 25th March 2017) both L UD 12
Linares was in the form of his life when he fought Crolla. A seasoned three weight world champion, who had already broken British hearts by stopping Kevin Mitchell a year earlier in 2015. The fact that he didn’t have things all his own way against Mitchell gave fans renewed confidence in Crolla’s chances of an upset, but Linares’ grit and experience saw him take a close decision in their first meeting. He repeated the feat 6 months later by a wider margin, establishing himself as one of the top lightweights in the world.
He continued to do so afterwards. Linares returned to British fighters immediately after the Crolla victories, defeating Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell via split decision in Inglewood. He then outpointed Mercito Gesta at the start of 2018, again in California. There was no shame in losing his WBA title to Vasyl Lomachenko in May – unless something extraordinary happens, nearly everyone will lose to the Ukrainian wizard – but Linares nevertheless made his mark, dropping Lomachenko in the 6th round to become the first man to do so. The Venezuelan returned to winning ways with a third round KO of capable super-lightweight Abner Cotto in September, to possibly set up another tilt at a world title early next year. Still fresh at 33, Linares remains a force to be reckoned with.
2. Ricky Burns (7th October 2017, W UD 12)
Burns is one of Scotland’s best ever boxers, but his form going into this fight was patchy, with a few results not telling the whole story. His victory over Kiryl Relikh was closer than the already-close scorecards suggested, while Raymundo Beltran and Dejan Zlaticanin both deserved more than a draw and a split decision win respectively. After losing to Julius Indongo in April, Burns met Crolla in October, and was slightly outshone by the younger, hungrier Mancunian in a nevertheless competitive and close match.
Burns returned to winning ways in June, a stoppage win over unheralded Ivan Njegac this June setting up an interestingly balanced fight with former British champion Scott Cardle this weekend. On the same card that Crolla will be fighting on. Both men will come to fight; Burns can grind out a win, but will likely put more miles on the clock by doing so in a career that has seen him in some real wars. For Crolla, however, a Burns victory will go some way to suggesting that Burns was still close to his best when Crolla defeated him.
1. Edson Ramirez (31st March 2018, W UD 12)
Edson Ramirez could have been a banana-skin opponent, but was unlikely to be. Having never fought outside Mexico, he nevertheless passed the precious few tests he had undertaken (a 10 round points win over compatriot Adrian Young stands out). Crolla was by far the most experienced opponent he had ever faced, and the difference showed; a near shutout win for the Mancunian on the undercard of Joshua – Parker was another step towards a return to the limelight. For Ramirez, this has so far been nothing more than a cameo at contender level; he has nothing planned for the future as of yet.
Verdict: 7/10 Crolla has enjoyed some excellent highs recently in his boxing career, and is back on track to enjoy more of them in the future. If the only lows remain his two losses to a lightweight superstar and the injuries sustained outside the ring during a burglary attempt, then this score will doubtless get higher.