By Jake Donovan
In-ring action the first time around was so nice that Darleys Perez and Anthony Crolla have decided to do it twice.
The pair of lightweights meet again, four months after their thrilling 12-round title fight that was met with a widely disputed outcome. Many felt Crolla did enough to deserve the crown, only to settle for a majority draw in his own backyward.
As was the case in July, the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England once again plays host to the bout, which will air live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom and A Wealth of Entertainment (AWE) in the United States.
Perez (32-1-1, 20KOs) had just received an upgrade from interim to full lightweight titlist, but nearly conceded the crown to a comebacking Crolla. Low-blow point deductions in each of the championship rounds turned what would have been a split decision win into a majority draw, although the majority of the viewing public considered Perez fortunate to escape with his title still intact.
The bout was the first in the United Kingdom for Perez, a 32-year old from Colombia whose entire career has taken place in The Americas. His lone loss came in June '13, dropping a 12-round decision to Yuriorkis Gamboa. He is 4-0-1 since that night, including wins over Argenis Lopez, Jaider Parra and Jonathan Maicelo.
Crolla (29-4-3, 11KOs) delivered one of the finest performances of his career in his first fight with Perez, an emotional event considering there was a point where it was doubtful he would ever fight again. The veteran lightweight contender - who celebrates his 29th birthday on Monday - was hospitalized last December after an attempt to fend off burglars left him with severe head trauma.
The prideful Mancunian fought the good fight, recovering from the wounds and enjoying a triumphant ring return in front of a hometown crowd. Everything went right for Crolla up until the final scores were announced, although he remains unbeaten in his last eight starts (5-0-3 over that stretch).
Will the challenger do (more than) enough to sway the judges this time around? Can Perez survive a second straight trip to the lion's den?
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believe Saturday's lightweight title fight action will play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: DARLEYS PEREZ vs. ANTHONY CROLLA
Miguel Assuncao (Crolla Dec.): I believe Crolla will sneak a decision on superior work-rate.
Ryan Bivins (Crolla Dec.): Crolla showed he learned from his mistakes in the Derry Mathews rematch and did much better even if people still thought he lost. At least here he's already coming off a really good performance the first time. Perez has less dimensions and will probably make less adjustments. Plus, Crolla has home court advantage and British fans already feel he got robbed the first time.
Shaun Brown (Crolla Dec.): Will Perez under perform like last time? Has Crolla's chance come and gone? Will the judges favour Crolla in a close fight after what happened last time? These are two closely matched fighters and I think they'll pick up where they left off with a similar fight pattern to last time. Again it will go down to the judges and this time I think Crolla will have his arm raised with a split decision victory.
Ryan Burton (Perez Dec.): The Colombian ekes out a close split decision win on foreign soil to erase the draw of their first fight.
Jake Donovan (Perez Dec.): If there was ever a perfect opportunity for Crolla to win this fight, it was in July. Fighting at home and as the overwhelming sentimental favorite - he appeared to do well enough to win even without the sidebars. For whatever reason the judges saw fit to deny him victory. I think Perez does just that on his own this time around, making enough key adjustments to shade it on all three cards.
Stephen "Breadman" Edwards (Perez Dec.): Champ gets it right this time.
Michael Gibbons (Crolla Dec.): Judges get it right this time.
Chris Glover (Perez late TKO): For me Darleys Perez in the first fight wasn't the same Perez that I have seen against the likes of Gamboa. Crolla seemed to rise to the occasion that night and produced an excellent display. I gave Crolla the first fight by a couple of rounds however I'm expecting a far better Perez in this contest.
George Ogier (Perez Dec.): Anthony Crolla has taken a Hollywood road to a possible world title reign and it would take a heart of stone not to want him to win. A lot is made of how close the first fight was but at the root of that result is the fact that Darleys Perez took Crolla lightly and at times was his own worst enemy. Perez has boxed and won at a far higher level than Crolla and I think this will show come fight night. Crolla’s rise to a world title tilt is as much about judicious management as it is about boxing ability. When you consider that Perez had two points deducted in the first fight I think this will be fairly plain sailing for the Colombian. I expect a spirited resistance from Crolla but there will be an apparent talent gap come the end of the fight. Both boxers do the basics well, it’s just that Perez does them better.
Takahiro Onaga (Crolla Dec.): I thought Crolla won the first fight and think this rematch will be much of the same, with the Englishman out working the champion to claim the title.
Cliff Rold (Crolla Dec.): Crolla just missed the first time. He won't lose with the home turf edge twice.
Victor Salazar (Crolla Dec.): Crolla won the first one and I think he'll get the nod in the second one.
Alexey Sukachev (Crolla Dec.): The second time will be a charm for Crolla here even if it'll be a closer fight than scores will suggest.
Crolla - 8
Perez - 5
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox