Crolla vs Lomachenko fight: Will ‘Million Dollar’ shock the world and beat the talented Ukrainian?
Apart from his trainer and stablemates, nobody in the boxing world appears to be giving Anthony Crolla a prayer of usurping the odds and defeating the outrageously talented Vasiliy Lomachenko.
The Manchester lightweight attempts to reclaim his old WBA title, along with the WBO belt, when he squares up to the Ukrainian at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles this weekend.
It’s been a rocky road from north Manchester to La La Land for one of boxing’s true gents. There have been plenty of bumps along the path with crushing defeats to a journeyman and domestic rivals just part of the story. He’s had to cope with the trauma of an opponent’s brain injury – the darkest night of his career. After overcoming that and pushing on to finally land a first world title shot, the dream ended with a concrete slab on his head as he tackled burglars breaking into his neighbour’s house.
The fractured skull and shattered ankle simply added motivation. He rebuilt, got the shot he craved just eight months after the attack, only to be robbed of victory with a draw against Darleys Perez. The rematch was honoured, and his night finally came at his beloved Manchester Arena when a left hook to the body left the Colombian crumpled on the canvas.
A successful defence against Ismael Barroso followed before he twice shared the ring with the elite Jorge Linares – twice he came second. Another rebuild was needed and successive victories over Ricky Burns, Edson Ramirez and Daud Yordan has led him to his mandatory status and his latest mountain to climb.
The challenge has been embraced and ‘Million Dollar’ has left no stone unturned in his quest to once again prove the naysayers wrong. Britain’s only world amateur gold medallist Frankie Gavin and fellow southpaw Jazza Dickens have been key sparring partners, helping Crolla prepare for the most unorthodox of fighters.
“Camp has gone fantastic,” he said. “It’s been tough at times, both mentally and physically, but it’s a camp that I believe has made me a better fighter. I’m in the shape of my life and I’m in a very good place.
LATEST BOXING NEWS
“I did a lot of technique work with Frankie. Anyone who knows boxing knows he’s got one of the best boxing brains in Britain. He’s Britain’s only world gold medallist and the worlds are harder to win than the Olympics. He’s so, so talented. He’s not got the speed or the angles of Lomachenko, but there are certain things he looks to do and certain shots he looks to throw. Likewise, with Jazza Dickens, the way he spins off like Lomachenko, it’s been great.
“We just tried to vary it as much as we can and use fighters who were top amateurs. If you look at Lomachenko’s style – he’s kept his amateur feet. Kept that pace that he fought with as an amateur. He’s so different, so unique, so agile. We’ve seen very few fighters like him that’s why we’ve had different sparring partners. We believe we’ve prepared the best we probably can.”
Long-time trainer Joe Gallagher has, of course, overseen every session. While Crolla – although a demonic trainer – is by nature relaxed and easy going, Joe is obsessive in his work and has pored over every Loma detail in his bid to devise a plan. It isn’t easy implementing a strategy to combat a man who won two Olympic golds (amateur record 396-1 with the sole defeat avenged twice) and is already a three-weight world champion after 13 professional fights. Not surprisingly, things can get a little tense and tetchy as the fight approaches.
“I’m sure he feels I’ve been having a go at him just to have a go at him. But I haven’t,” Joe said. “We cannot allow any error at any time. I’ve been trying to help him get rid of any bad habits or mistakes he’s had before, eradicate them and develop new habits and shot selections for this fight. I’m not going to just turn up and train him, get a pay-cheque and get off. It’s not in my DNA or Anthony’s. I’ve been shouting at him for the right reasons and I think he knows that.
“It’s hard to prepare for Lomachenko. Just when you think you’ve solved him; you watch another fight and he does something else different. The thing about him, and this is what makes him one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, is that he changes his style to whatever the opponent is. We know that Lomachenko will be looking to make a statement and will be looking to stop people at 135lbs, which is bad news for us.
“But look, we’ve worked and worked, and It won’t be for the wont of trying. We’ve put everything into this, and I liken it very much to when Ricky [Hatton] fought [Floyd] Mayweather and lost. He could handle that. He had the best camp, best training, all his fans there – great. You could argue that he had a bad referee on the night in Joe Cortez, but at the end of the day he could live with it as he lost to the better man.
“When it came to the Manny Pacquiao fight, he had a bad camp. He’ll tell you he had a bad camp. The way he lost that night, he knows he shouldn’t have been in there. That’s what I said to Anthony – we fought Jorge Linares and it was similar to Ricky fighting Mayweather. Now we’re fighting Lomachenko and we need to be the best. We can’t rely on what we did with Linares. We’ve pushed and pushed and if we win – brilliant. If not, then we can live with it because we’ve given it our best. I couldn’t have asked for more from Anthony.
“We’ve got to try not to be the ‘normal’ Anthony Crolla for this fight. He’s got a lifetime of habits that we’ve been trying to get rid of and we’re trying to make him a different Anthony Crolla on the night.”
Team Crolla landed Stateside ten days out from fight night. Anthony, Joe, nutritionist Scott Robinson and strength and conditioning coach Johnny Reynolds have been housed at an Airbnb in Hollywood, close to their training base at the famous Wild Card Gym. It’s not a new scenario for them. Joe’s stable of fighters has made numerous training trips to L.A. Freddie Roach’s gym is something of a home from home and the familiarity has helped everything feel normal.
Fighting in the USA isn’t new to Crolla either. Back in September 2011 he beat Juan Montiel on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr v Victor Ortiz. It wasn’t a smooth trip as Joe had to stay in the UK to oversee three of the Smith brothers fighting on a bill in Liverpool, so Crolla travelled solo.
“I was my own for fight week, but it was a lot of learning. I was walking up and down the Vegas strip on my own, lost in the occasion a little bit. It made me grow up a lot that week,” Anthony said.
“This time, I’ve got a full team! There are media commitments but that’s it. It’s not like fighting at home where I’m driving around all over the place during fight week. I’ve got great support coming over, so I’m made up. It’s going to feel unbelievable walking out at the arena and I’m going to enjoy every single minute of it. I’m here to do a job. I’m not going to get lost in the atmosphere or the moment, but I am going to take it all in. I’ll be very proud, but I’m going out there to do people proud.”
Crolla’s wife Fran and son Jesse have also travelled to L.A. After marrying six months ago, the honeymoon was put on hold as Anthony prepared for the Daud Yordan fight.
“Me, my wife and my little boy will be spending a week around Los Angeles after the fight. We’ll go to the Universal studios and I’ll have an adventure with my little man. There’ll be a bit of sightseeing afterwards, but first and foremost, I’m fighting one of the best on the planet and I’m here to do a job.”
It’s not the first rodeo for Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla, but it is his trickiest test in a career of lows and highs. He believes he’s at his peak and is ready to prove everyone wrong. It’s a view echoed by Joe Gallagher.
“To see him fight one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world – I’m very proud of him and his career and with what he’s achieved. You show me the fights where he wasn’t an underdog? I think he’s only been favourite for two of his last seven or eight fights.
“We’re not going to be starstruck. The likes of Mark Wahlberg and Mickey Rourke will be ringside, but we know Lomachenko’s coming to do a job and we want to make sure he doesn’t do that job. We’re not here to tick boxes, we’re here to win titles and cause one of the biggest upsets in sporting history.”
Lomachenko v Crolla takes place at the Staples Centre, Los Angeles in the early hours of Saturday morning UK time.
Source: SportsLatest TS