By Keith Idec
Anthony Crolla rewarded his faithful fans for their undying loyalty Saturday night.
The hometown hero out-boxed Scotland’s Ricky Burns in a competitive, tactical, 12-round battle between former lightweight champions at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. Crolla used a sustained body attack and a higher work rate to build a lead against Burns, and won a unanimous decision.
Crolla, who fed off the electric environment in his hometown, won their lightweight fight on all three scorecards. Judges Michael Alexander (116-114), Steve Gray (117-112) and Victor Loughlin (116-113) all scored the fight for Crolla.
The 30-year-old Crolla (32-6-3, 13 KOs) halted a two-fight losing streak. The former WBA lightweight champion had lost back-to-back, 12-round unanimous decisions to Venezuela’s Jorge Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) at Manchester Arena.
The 34-year-old Burns (41-7-1, 14 KOs) had hoped to bounce back from a decisive defeat to Namibia’s Julius Indongo in their 12-round, 140-pound championship unification fight April 15 in Glasgow. The previously undefeated Indongo (22-1, 11 KOs) defended his IBF and IBO titles and won the WBA 140-pound title from Burns in that fight.
A consistent, determined Crolla just wouldn’t allow Burns to enter enemy territory and pull off a victory. He was a bit busier and better than the three-division champion for much of their lightweight bout.
Burns finished strong in the 12th round, when both boxers landed hard right hands.
Though neither fighter is particularly powerful, they traded power punches toward the end of an excellent 11th round. Crolla connected with an overhand right and Burns fired back with a right uppercut during one entertaining exchange.
Burns tried to press the action in the ninth round, but couldn’t keep Crolla from landing body shots and jabs. Crolla’s combination punching and body blows continued to bother Burns in the eighth round.
Crolla’s work rate remained high in the seventh round, though Burns bounced back later in the round to land a hard right uppercut and a left hook. Crolla continued to connect with body shots and his jab in the fifth round.
Burns landed a short right hand to Crolla’s jaw with about 50 seconds to go in the fourth round. For much of that round, though, Crolla kept out of Burns’ punching range.
Crolla began banging away at Burns’ body early in the third round. Burns kept working behind his jab, but wasn’t able to catch Crolla with any of the right hands he fired after his jab in the third round.
The second round, much like the first, lacked clean punches landed by either fighter. Burns and Crolla spent much of a closely contested first round pumping jabs toward one another and moving away from less frequent power punches.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.