Anthony Crolla steps into his coliseum on Saturday night. The Manchester Arena will hold a heavy atmosphere of apprehension – a feeling of foreboding for all those in attendance.
Crolla’s opponent Ismael Barroso, whilst just a shade over 5 feet 8 inches, brings with him the formidability of a man twice his size. A thunderous knockout puncher, the southpaw Venezuelan put long time contender Kevin Mitchell to the sword last December in London inside just six rounds.
Defending his WBA lightweight title, ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla looks to emulate his Mancunian hero Ricky Hatton by turning his stomping ground into a fortress at 135lbs – but first he must deal with the obvious threat ahead of him.
With his mandatory challenger standing opposite him in the ring this weekend– the life-long Manchester United fan isn’t taking anything for granted, “It’s the most dangerous fight of my career, I saw him take Kevin out in London and he did it in impressive fashion.”
Key to Crolla’s success will be staying off the ropes for sustained periods of the fight; Mitchell tired quickly after short sharp barrages left him reeling from the power of Barroso, something the former British champion cannot afford to do.
Ultimately at some point the champion will have to plant his feet and stand and trade with his 33 year old challenger, hoping to drag him into the later rounds. Barroso has only gone the distance twice in his career – the last time over five years ago.
If the popular Mancunian can sustain an expected early barrage – a veteran of five previous title fights that have went the distance – that experience could feasibly see him test Barroso’s metal and more importantly his gas tank.
Looking beyond this fight, Crolla is somewhat of an oddity in the division; with city rival Terry Flanagan a stylish southpaw, WBC champion elect Dejan Zlaticanin also hitting from the opposite stance, the sparring in preparation for the fearsome Barroso could pay dividends for future hopes of unifying at lightweight.
Barroso will harbour hopes of an upset and a potential clash with fellow countryman Jorge Linares at some point down the line – a fight many would pick the newest gun-slinger in town to emerge victorious.
Crolla will have to return every bit as sharp as he did last November when he ripped away the title from champion Darleys Perez with a vicious body shot. A new found power to the body will be surely needed this weekend to keep the WBA’s freshest challenger at bay.
Saturday night stands as the biggest test of his career so far, the idea of a side-step of his mandatory challenger never crossed his mind – but what do you expect? That just isn’t in Crolla’s nature.
“The suggestion that I would duck him got my back up a bit. When you are champion you fight the best challengers out there and that’s what I see in Barroso. I am looking forward to us both putting on a fantastic fight.”