Anthony "Million Dollar" Crolla executed a near flawless gameplan to stop big-hitting mandatory challenger Ismael Barroso and retain his WBA lightweight world championship at the Manchester Arena on Saturday night (7 May). In his first defence since dethroning Darleys Perez, at the second time of asking in November 2015, the hometown warrior performed admirably to nullify the threats of a man generally feared as the most dangerous fighter in the division.
Fully aware of Barroso's devastating power that had wreaked havoc for the recently retired Kevin Mitchell during the undercard of Anthony Joshua's heavyweight grudge match against Dillian Whyte last year, Crolla began the bout by keeping his hands up high and not allowing any shots to his chin. The redness around his forehead spoke volumes of "El Tigre's" ferocity, but most of his bigger blows were hitting gloves and his attempts to go all out and stop the contest early eventually proved his undoing.
Many questioned how Barroso might react to being taken into deep waters, and the answer soon became clear as he began blowing heavily and moving with lethargy while throwing slower punches that lacked any of his trademark venom. Sensing his opportunity, Crolla went on the offensive and attacked with precision. The pace was simply too much for the Venezuelan southpaw, who had been past the sixth round only once in his career, to handle and he sank to the canvas in sheer exhaustion.
A hugely entertaining fight came to an end in round seven, when the champion, for the second time in as many outings, put his opponent down with a left hook to the body. Such a victory was vindication for the 29-year-old, many of whom did not think would be willing to take on such a feared opponent in his first defence. The pressure will now fall upon promoter and Matchroom chief Eddie Hearn to agree an all-Manchester unification fight against WBO title-holder Terry Flanagan, who is undefeated through 30 professional fights and outpointed Derry Matthews in March.
Elsewhere on a busy night for British boxing dominated by Amir Khan's brutal sixth-round knockout defeat to WBC middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in Las Vegas, Dereck Chisora's hopes of facing Joshua appear all but over after being defeated by Kubrat Pulev at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg. In a European heavyweight title clash that doubled up as an eliminator for the IBF belt, "Del Boy", who created yet more controversy during Friday's eventful weigh-in after being hit by a bottle, struggled to land any meaningful shots and failed to nullify the Bulgarian's impressive jab before losing via a split decision.
The manner of victory for Pulev was far more comfortable than the judges' scorecards appeared to suggest, with one score of 115-113 in favour of Chisora inviting widespread derision. WBA, WBO and IBO champion Tyson Fury was present at ringside to support a former rival whom he beat twice in four years en route to shocking Wladimir Klitschko.