By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
ANTHONY CROLLA got it right when he claimed Ricky Hatton would have been proud of the body shot that earned him the WBA lightweight crown.
On November 21st of last year, the Manchester fighter stopped Colombian Darleys Perez in the fifth round to take the WBA strap.
It was a vicious and accurate left hook to the midriff that sent Perez to the floor and he could not beat the count as Crolla became Britain’s 10th reigning world champion.
Hatton was famous for finishing fights in such manner during his prime at Manchester Arena.
Crolla, 29, was high up in the nosebleed seats back then cheering on his boxing icon, but now he was the one sinking in the sickening body shot to win a world title.
He said: “I used to save up all my pocket money to have enough to buy a ticket to come see Ricky at this arena.
“I’ve seen a few from him over that time.
“But I was so happy with my shot and I don’t want to say ‘I’ve done a Ricky Hatton’ but I think he would have been proud of that.”
It was a year ago that Crolla was lying in hospital with a fractured skull and broken ankle wondering if his boxing career was over after getting hit by a concrete slab as he chased burglars from a neighbour’s house.
The Manchester man was lucky to be alive, but had the drive to battle back like he had done so many times before in a 37-fight career that includes three defeats and four draws.
One of those draws would come in July on his return to the ring in the first fight with Perez at the same venue.
Crolla felt hard done by that night and many agreed, but he was simply too nice to go ranting and raving calling for a rematch.
His promoter Eddie Heard would deliver it though and Crolla ensured the judges could not take it from him this time in front of 8,000 loud fans in the same venue as the first fight.
Crolla was patient in the first round, but Perez was probably getting the better of the jab exchanges.
The crowd that sung their man’s name loudly before the opening bell started to go quiet as the fight looked ready to turn into a tactical battle.
Crolla was successful with a couple of right hands in the second, but the Colombian looked confident as he continued to pop out the jab.
The third followed in similar fashion, but ‘Million Dollar’ started to look on the money in the fourth as two right uppercuts on the inside broke through Perez’s guard.
However, it was a body shot that ended the bout and caused chaos in the crowd.
Crolla’s patience was rewarded as he finally backed Perez onto the ropes before firing a right upper cut that glanced on the defending champion.
But the gap for the left hook to the body opened up as Perez raised his guard and Crolla took advantage to sink in a superb shot.
Crolla watched as referee Terry O’Connor counted and, as the official got closer to 10, the smile started to widen on the challenger’s face.
The fairytale was complete as Crolla went from hospital bed to world champion in less than 12 months.