Anthony Crolla's hopes of becoming a world champion for a second time were ended by Jorge Linares on Saturday (25 March). Fighting for the WBA title he lost last September last year, the 30-year-old exhibited tremendous heart in front of a hometown crowd that sounded more like Manchester United's Stretford End, but ultimately was outclassed once again by the effortlessly stylish Venezuelan.
After five world title fights in under two years, the 30-year-old is now planning a break from the ring to recharge his batteries and spend time with his family. But what awaits him on his return? IBTimes UK considers the options.
Crolla's old schoolmate and Manchester's other world champion Terry Flanagan is a strong possibility. The 27-year-old has held the WBO lightweight title since July 2015, successfully defending the belt six times. It seems an obvious choice; a derby fight for a world title between two old friends. But a potential hurdle stands in the way, given the two are managed by rival promotions with rival television broadcasters behind them.
Crolla is tied to Matchroom who are backed by Sky Sports and Flanagan is partnered with Frank Warren, broadcast by BoxNation. But if Eddie Hearn wishes to keep Crolla active in the world title scene, he might have to let his man fight on a different show, something he admits he will consider. "That doesn't matter," Hearn recently said over the possibility of Crolla fighting on BoxNation, who recently signed a huge deal to show fights on Sky's rival BT Sport. "Not if it means Anthony making a lot of money." Just how much exactly? Hearn says seven figures.
If no world title opportunities present themselves at lightweight level, Crolla insists he will be ready to move up to light-welterweight. That would feed him into another all-British clash against Ricky Burns. After taking the vacant WBA belt in May 2016, the Scot is looking to unify the division when he takes on Julius Indongo for the IBF and IBO titles in Glasgow next month. Should Burns come out on top, Crolla says he will be eager to test himself at 140lbs. "With notice I would certainly grow into that. Ricky Burns could unify the division on 15 April. I wouldn't rule out the option of moving up to fight the winner."
A fresh start in America?
Just one of Crolla's 40 professional fights have come outside Europe; that was back in 2011 in a split decision victory over Juan Montiel years before fighting at world level. Matchroom's deal with American broadcaster Showtime meant audiences state-side watched on during Saturday's fight, and the Mancunian feels a fight across the Atlantic could be the remedy after his latest Linares setback.
"The fight was screened live on Sky Sports but also over in America on Showtime so my profile has risen," Crolla told Sky Sports News HQ. "I gave it my all and I think they were impressed with what they saw even though I didn't get the result I wanted.
"I think there are still plenty if options out there for me. I just want to be involved in the big fights again. I will have a little break, lick my wounds and hopefully have another attack on a world title, whichever route that may be."
Robert Easter Jnr?
The rising prospect in the lightweight division, Easter is undefeated after 19 professional fights having won the IBF crown after a gruelling exchange with Ghanaian Richard Commey in September last year. After a hometown title defence against Luis Cruz in February, he represents Crolla's only other option for a world title fight at lightweight other than Flanagan. A third fight with Linares is impossible given just how convincing the Venezuelan was in their previous two meetings. WBC champion Mikey Garcia also seems out of his grasp, with the American now setting his sights on a unification bout with Linares.