Lewis Crocker battled his way to a thrilling decision victory over Conah Walker on Saturday at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham, England.

Crocker has been spoken about as one of the domestic welterweight division’s toughest outs for years, but “The Croc” has really begun to show his potential over the past six months. Last December, Belfast’s Crocker outpointed his city rival, Tyrone McKenna, in one-sided but entertaining fashion and knocked out an outsized Jose Felix the following month.

Crocker, 27, showed a different side to his game Saturday by beating the determined Walker in a Fight of the Year contender.

Last week, Walker (13-3-1, 5 KOs) told BoxingScene that people would be shocked at how quickly and easily he would figure out Crocker’s style. Crocker, 29, of Wolverhampton, put full belief in his pre-fight plan, put his hands up and walked directly to the dangerous Crocker (20-0, 11 KOs) from the opening bell. 

Walker punched in combination and tried to find a way through Crocker’s high-held guard. He did walk into one huge looping left hook, which landed high on his forehead. He took it well but grabbed momentarily. As is his way, Crocker bided his time, but when he did throw, he threw with spite.

Crocker began to throw more regularly in the second. Letting his trademark left hook go, to the head and body, and punching in combination whenever Walker took brief pauses in his attacks.

Walker started the third at an even higher clip and found some room through the center of guard, and also seemed to hurt Crocker with a shot downstairs. Crocker soaked it up and began to attack with accurate three- and four-punch bursts rather than heavy single shots. Walker absorbed punches that have caused other fighters to crumble, but he returned to his corner with a bloody nose. 

By the midway point, Walker was controlling the pace of the fight and had drawn blood from Crocker’s nose. Realizing things needed to change, Crocker altered his tactics in the fifth and began to move and throw out a jab. The change gave Walker space to move into, and Crocker lost some venom from his shots, though they did reduce Walker’s output.

With more room to work with, Crocker was able to find Walker with flush power shots – one stunning three-punch combination in particular bounced off Walker’s chin – but Walker took them without blinking and continued to press forward. He did, however, seem to be falling into Crocker’s traps more and more regularly. 

Midway through the eighth, a clearly tired Crocker put together a seven-punch combination, but rather than stopping Walker in his tracks, it provoked him into a violent response of his own.

Walker, his right eye swelling shut, was docked a point for persistent low blows at the start of the ninth and set right about making sure he won the round. It developed into a sensational round, with Walker’s pressure and aggression being matched by Crocker’s explosive combination punching.

The 10th round was three minutes of nonstop action. A phenomenally conditioned Walker held his shape and kept working away, but an exhausted Crocker would cut loose with heavy, hard shots.

The judges preferred Crocker’s accurate, explosive punching.

Leszek Jankowiak and Terry O’Conor scored the fight 96-93 whilst Olena Pobyvailo had it 95-94, all for Crocker, who collects a WBA belt and moves on towards a fight with Limerick, Ireland's slick Paddy Donovan.