Six months on from claiming the WBA lightweight crown with a fifth-round stoppage of Darleys Perez, Anthony Crolla returns to the Manchester Arena on 7 May to provide the first defence of his belt against mandatory challenger and interim champion Ismael Barroso in front of his hometown crowd.
Crolla's victory in November, secured with a crunching left hand body shot that left his opponent doubled over in pain and unable to beat the referee's count, was the overwhelming highlight of an otherwise difficult period for the 29-year-old. Having been denied an initial title shot against Richar Abril due to the fractured skull and broken ankle sustained after being struck with a concrete slab during a confrontation with burglars back in December 2014, his first meeting with Perez ended in a controversial draw.
Terry Flanagan's unanimous points defeat of Derry Matthews in Liverpool last weekend has already given way to yet more frenzied discussion of a potentially lucrative all-Manchester unification fight, a possibility that has already been rejected once by Crolla – who was reportedly offered £500,000 ($707,000).
Promoter Frank Warren has since provided a warning that a loss to Barroso will cost the former British and Inter-Continental champion any chance of meeting his old schoolpal. With that in mind, IBTimes UK casts an eye at the man looking to spoil the party...
What is his background?
Barroso is a powerful 33-year-old southpaw from El Tigre, a city located in the eastern Venezuelan state of Anzoategui and the shire town of the Simon Rodriguez Municipality. He turned professional in 2005, since which he has amassed a formidable record of 18 knockouts from 19 career victories. Led by Greg Cohen Promotions (GCP), he is yet to taste defeat – but has taken part in two draws.
Who has he fought?
The big-puncher will be best known to British boxing fans as the man who effectively sent likeable Londoner Kevin Mitchell into retirement, ending his hopes of a third world title tilt with a brutal demonstration of ferocious power. Fighting in a final eliminator for the WBA belt on the undercard of Anthony Joshua's heavyweight clash with former amateur rival Dillian Whyte at the O2 Arena, Barroso secured two knockdowns in a dominant showing before unleashing a flurry of vicious punches that forced referee Howard Foster to call a halt to the contest before the midway point.
Mitchell had suffered a bloody 10-round loss to another Venezuelan in WBC champion Jorge Linares seven months earlier and eventually hung up his gloves just over a month before a European lightweight title bout against Edis Tatli in Finland. Before that date, Barroso had mostly fought in South/Central American and Caribbean countries including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
He secured two victories in the United States last year, beating Issouf Kinda in New York before dispatching Ira Terry at the Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minnesota. A proposed contest against Matthews in April 2015 was scuppered by visa issues, although Cohen later claimed that the Merseysider had done "everything possible" to avoid his man.
What have they said about the fight?
The first press conference for Matchroom's 'Danger Zone' card took place at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel in Manchester on 15 March....
Anthony Crolla: "I'd be a fraud if I gave up this belt straight away because a mandatory is tough. It's the biggest and toughest fight out there. My belt is my pride and joy. Being the underdog doesn't bother me – I've had it my whole career. It got my back up when people assumed I would swerve this. He's been ducked and avoided by many. I'm looking forward to 7 May."
Eddie Hearn: "When we do the fight with Terry Flanagan, we will do it properly – for a lot of money. We know who the biggest domestic draw is in the lightweight division in the UK."