Popular British boxer Anthony "Million Dollar" Crolla is confident of successfully unifying the lightweight division as he prepares to face Jorge Linares. The 29-year-old will put his WBA belt on the line and also compete for the WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine titles in front of his hometown crowd at the Manchester Arena on Saturday 24 September.
Such an announcement from promoters Matchroom Boxing comes a month after Crolla produced a sensational tactical performance to provide the first defence of his crown in a seventh-round stoppage of big-punching Ismael Barroso at the same venue. Southpaw "El Tigre" was widely revered as the most dangerous opponent available following his devastating defeat of Kevin Mitchell, but was unable to secure a signature early knockout and faded badly before being halted by a painful left hook to the body.
"I'm so excited to have the chance to unify the lightweight division," Crolla said. "Jorge is a fantastic fighter and it's another mountain to climb, but these are the tests that I thrive on and I've beaten two great fighters in [Darleys] Perez and Barroso and I'm confident that I can beat Jorge too.
"I'm having to pinch myself after everything that's happened. I'm fighting the number one fighter in the division for the WBC, WBA and Ring titles; it doesn't get any better than this. I'm very proud and privileged to be able to bring this fight to Manchester."
Joe Gallagher-trained Crolla, who previously suffered a fractured skull and a broken ankle during a confrontation with burglars, became a world champion for the first time last November after another vicious body shot sealed victory over Perez. That victory was particularly sweet after the pair's first meeting in July 2015 ended in a controversial draw.
Like Barroso, Linares also hails from Venezuela. He has held the WBC strap since beating Mexican Javier Prieto in December 2014. He also fought Mitchell last year on the undercard of Kell Brook vs Frankie Gavin and was knocked down in a brutally absorbing encounter that was finally stopped in the 10th round with the now-retired Dagenham fighter sporting a gross swelling over his cut left eye. The three-weight world champion returned home to Caracas in October, when he chalked up the 40th win of his career and a ninth in succession with a fourth-round KO of Ivan Cano.
A broken hand previously forced Linares to be designated as a champion in recess by the WBC and Dejan Zlaticanin claimed the vacant title by seeing off Bolivia's Franklin Mamani in New York on 11 June. The organisation's president, Mauricio Sulaiman, confirmed that the winner of Crolla-Linares is committed to facing the Montenegrin. Manchester rival Terry Flanagan currently has the WBO belt and Rances Barthelemy is the IBF title-holder.