By Danny Winterbottom
Anthony Crolla’s dream shot at the WBA world lightweight title ended in bitter disappointment when his bout with champion Darleys Perez was scored a majority draw after 12 rounds despite the Manchester man appearing to have done enough to take the championship.
One judge had Crolla a comfortable winner 116-111 but he was overruled by his colleagues who couldn’t spilt the pair carding 113-113 twice despite Perez having two points deducted for low blows. BoxingScene scored the contest 116-112 for Crolla who was emotional and bitterly disappointed when he spoke to the press.
“Right now I’m obviously disappointed” said Crolla who was flanked by trainer Joe Gallagher and promoter Eddie Hearn.
“In my head I was thinking ‘had I done enough?’ but with the points deductions I believe that I did and I should be world champion.”
Hearn revealed that he had already sent an email to WBA president Gilberto Mendoza lobbying for an immediate rematch
“I felt as though Anthony won the fight by three or four rounds” said the Matchroom boss
“It wasn’t a robbery, there were some close rounds but Anthony should be world champion and I’m gutted for him.”
Trainer Gallagher said “We thought that Perez would come out and try to silence the crowd but it was a real nip and tuck fight with one or two rounds in it. He’ll have a rest and comeback stronger.”
Seven months ago Crolla was attacked with a concrete slab by thugs that were fleeing a break in at his neighbour’s home in Chadderton, Oldham and he was told by doctors that his boxing career could be over.
The attack in which Crolla suffered a fractured skull and a badly broken ankle derailed his world title shot at then champion Richar Abril but the New Moston native defied the medics and on Saturday night in front of a passionate home support he put in the performance of his life but was cruelly denied on the cards.
Perez played his part in the contest but the feeling at ringside was Crolla had done enough to take the title and Sky Sports presenter Ed Robinson likened the sense of dismay at the result to the night another Manchester warrior Micheal Brodie was denied a victory over Willie Jorrin back in 2000 in a WBC super-bantamweight title contest.
The opening round saw Crolla boxing nicely behind his cultured Jab but Perez remained calm under pressure and when he chose to let his hands go he looked dangerous with his right hand.
Crolla continued to box well in round two and with just seconds left in the round he detonated a stunning left hook that turned Perez’s legs to rubber. Roared on by the capacity crowd he went in for the kill but Perez survived to hear the bell. But Crolla had proven he had the power to hurt the champion, something not many people expected going into the contest.
The Columbian champion looked shell-shocked going into round three and he struggled to match Crolla for accuracy as the Manchester man pushed him back behind a strong jab and when the Columbian did throw he was out of range.
Perez registered his first round on my card in the fourth as he slipped Crolla’s jab making the Manchester man miss and he countered well with eye catching upper cuts and right hands. The right hand landed by Crolla in round two had woken Perez from the slumber the blow had been designed to send him into as he continued his good work in round five.
By half way my card read 48-47 to Crolla but Perez was beginning to look very dangerous. A terrific combination of blows from Crolla caught the eye in round six and a left to the body of Perez forced a smile from the champion who did little in the round despite looking good in the previous three minutes.
Crolla was boxing superbly behind the jab he’s nurtured in Gallagher’s gym and the weapon was preventing Perez from settling and landing the flashy combinations he is capable of as the fight entered the eighth round BoxingScene had Crolla up three points, 68-65.
Perez was warned for a low blow in round eight and the round was a close affair as both men had success. Whenever Perez had success Crolla would respond, on a night he needed to fight the fight of his life he was giving it everything he had.
In round 10 Perez sent Crolla back on his heels with a sharp left but both fighters looked to be slowing down under the lights. Perez again went low and was warned by referee Howard Foster that a point would be taken should he stray south of the border again.
Crolla ended the round on top as he bloodied the nose of the champion and I awarded him with a share of the session after a good start from Perez.
Round 11 began with chants of ‘Oooh Anthony Crooollla’ filing the arena and when Perez strayed low for a third time Howard Foster deducted a point from the champion, it now looked an uphill battle for Perez to retain his title at least on my card.
Perez did land a right hand flush on the jaw of Crolla in the closing moments of the round but the Manchester man shook it off.
Perez began the final round like a man who knew his title was slipping from his grasp but Crolla remained calm under fire and was comfortable enough to exchange blows inside. Perez again strayed low and was deducted another point as the Manchester crowd almost took the roof off the Arena.
When the bell sounded to end the 12th round Joe Gallagher hoisted his charge up onto his shoulders and the Manchester crowd saluted their hero. An incredible performance but not the result Crolla’s endeavours warranted.