By Terence Dooley
Joe Gallagher knows a good lightweight when he sees one. The accomplished coach guided John Murray to English, British and European honours as well as a world title challenge – Murray lost to WBA boss Brandon Rios earlier this month – and now expects Anthony Crolla to join Murray on the world stage.
Crolla widely out-pointed Willie Limond in Motherwell on November 25th; the Mancunian was making the maiden defence of the British lightweight belt he won against John Watson in February and produced a punch perfect display to settle the domestic dispute.
“Crolla was very professional the last time out,” said Gallagher when appraising the win. “He fought immaculately, hardly put a foot wrong or took a shot in return. People thought it could be fifty-fifty but Crolla won every round and did it in Limond’s back garden.
“I think he’s ready for a step up in class next year. Crolla started the year as English super-featherweight champion, all of a sudden he’s British champion at lightweight. Look at his start to the year; he was in the gym all the time ticking over so was ready when the call to face John Watson (for the vacant British lightweight belt) came in.
“When opportunity came we took it with both hands and haven’t looked back. That could be that thin line in a career where you go one way and it works out. Then he travelled to Vegas [beating Juan Montiel on points in September] and Scotland later in the year – it all speaks volumes of how far he’s come on.”
‘Million Dollar’ joined Gallagher in 2009, a win over former world title challenger Michael Brodie kick in November of that year kick started his career and set up a remarkable 2010. Gallagher knew that the former ABA titlist had the skills; Joe is an avid follower of the amateur game and expected Crolla to make a mark on the pros sooner or later.
“Me and Anthony go way back,” recalled Gallagher. “I always felt that he would win things off his jab and he later won the ABA title as an amateur with his skills. Anthony had sparred the lads at my gym so we had a relationship even before he joined.
“Anthony always had a great engine, he just didn’t have the gearbox to go with it but has picked that up in the gym because he’s around old-school fighters like Paul Smith and Matthew Macklin who show young fighters the way. These guys have been around a long time, seen it all and can pass on that experience.
“John Murray gave Anthony great words of advice as well. Anthony used to get nervous before big fights so John asked him why, he told him the time to get nervous is in the changing room when you’re about to get into it. Anthony picked up on that and is very relaxed now. John had an influence on Anthony and he’s been in the corner for most of John’s big nights, saw how it goes and it is now happening to him. You learn all along, John always had that swagger and Anthony now has it as well.”
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