By Terence Dooley
Anthony Crolla and Joe Murray both vie for titles this Saturday night on the undercard of Martin Murray’s Commonwealth, British and WBA Inter-Continental contest with Nick Blackwell at Wigan’s Robin Park Centre. Hatton Promotions have put together a strong bill as they seek to move three of their biggest names further up the title ladder.
Joe Gallagher trains Crolla and Murray. The coach believes that Anthony is the most improved fight in the UK. Telling me that recent English, British and now the WBA Inter-Continental lightweight fights have lit a fire under ‘Million Dollar’.
“I think Anthony Crolla is the most underrated, improved fighter in Britain today. It is a strong field, as you’ve seen recently with George Groves performing so well against James DeGale, but Anthony has fought for three titles on the bounce and is improving all the time,” declared Gallagher.
“I believe he’s European champion in waiting. [Current EBU holder] Gavin Rees should do the honorable thing by fighting Crolla because Anthony was willing to make the first defence of his British belt against Rees,” he stressed, alluding to the aborted April 16th contest between Crolla-Rees, a bout that was nixed when Gavin aggravated his long-standing nose injury.
He added: “I would put Anthony up there as the best lightweight in Europe right now.”
Crolla, 20-2 (8 early), meets Belgium’s Herve De Luca on Saturday night, the visitor went 9-0-1 before losing his ‘0’ to Innocent Anyanwu via a seventh round KO in 2007. The 29-year-old’s recent staccato record, 3-3 with two stoppage reversals in his last six, suggests that Crolla, 24, will add the WBA strap to his belt collection come the night.
Joe Murray takes on Aberdeen’s James Ancliff for the IBF Youth featherweight belt. ‘Genius’ is full of vim and verve going into his maiden title tilt after training closely with gym mate Stephen Smith, the current British and Commonwealth featherweight boss.
“Joe is showing a lot now,” opined Gallagher as he looked ahead to Murray’s fight. “He saw Stephen Smith applying himself for a [British] title fight [with John Simpson on April 27] in this gym so knows what it is all about now.
“Stephen is a kid who doesn’t get enough accolades. Groves is getting praised for beating DeGale after only twelve fights but Stephen fought a more established fighter in John Simpson, who was in the prime of his career and coming off a great win over Martin Lindsay.
“Simpson has been brilliant lately. Stephen beat him twice but where are the accolades for ‘Swifty’? It does rankle a bit. Here is a kid who didn’t go the Olympics and get that type of fanfare but has fought a really hard fighter twice in only twelve fights. The people in the trade and in the magazines should give credit where it is due.”
Turning his attention to Murray, Gallagher pointed out that the 24-year-old has come on in leaps and bounds during his ten fight, 10-0 (5), career.
“We used Stephen’s recent fight with Simpson as an example to Joe by showing him the type of focus you need going into title fights. I think Joe has seen it now and has learned from having Stephen here. Joe’s going for his first title, he’s looking great in the gym and there’s a real maturity about him.”
Ricky Hatton has high hopes for the former amateur star. ‘The Hitman’ also went for his first belt in his eleventh fight, hammering Tommy Peacock into a second round TKO defeat for the vacant BBBoC Central Area light-welterweight title in February 1999.
Hatton went onto have a great career; the former light-welterweight world champion is now putting a lot of energy into ensuring that his 2008 Olympian follows in his footsteps. Indeed, Ricky made a statement of intent when inking Murray’s professional signature, seeing a lot of himself in the flame haired box-puncher.
Ancliff has upset a few prospects during his five-year career, ending a seven fight losing streak to hand Adrian Gonzalez his first loss in April of last year. The 27-year-old also stripped Jason Hastie of his ‘0’ in February and got ten rounds under his belt last month when losing a clear decision to Chris Matthew Hughes for Scottish Area featherweight title.
Joe, though, should have too much for the 11-13-2 (2) boxer and will bid to hand the tough Scot his fourth stoppage loss.
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