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ANTHONY CROLLA may be the WBA lightweight champion, but he’ll be the underdog in his next world title fight, when he welcomes Jorge Linares to the Manchester Arena on September 24.
“Linares is a very good fight and people still acknowledge him as the number one lightweight in the world,” said Crolla’s trainer, Joe Gallagher. But he points out that Crolla “needs to be the challenger, the underdog, he needs to be that written off kid to prove people wrong”.
He proved that in his last fight against Ismael Barroso, when a crowd roared him on to victory in a thrilling fight. “There’s someone from Manchester that has took over the Ricky Hatton arena and it’s Anthony Crolla, the crowd and the excitement and he’s doing it with the trademark body punches as well,” Joe noted. “It came through I think the help of the crowd, the intensity, the first time in my career I could feel the crowd, the atmosphere was suffocating Barroso. That pressure that Anthony was bringing and when Anthony’s having success that roar, it was very much like Ricky Hatton. Hatton had to go in the eye of the storm with Kostya Tszyu.”
It was also a tactical triumph, as well as a personal one. “First and foremost the pat on the back goes to Anthony Crolla, he had to carry it out,” Gallagher said. “As much as we can put the plan into place, if they don’t carry it out that’s down to them but they know best. They can feel it and everything else.
“But I do feel there was an awful lot of stick given to me in February [when Scott Quigg lost to Carl Frampton], I’m not crying about it,” Joe continued. “All of a sudden everyone came off their perches, swooped down and put the boot in. A couple stood back and put another boot in.
“I think the plan with Quigg was going to plan to an extent but the broken jaw knocked us for two rounds, I’m not saying if the jaw [hadn’t happened] we would have won but we would have got to work a lot earlier than what we ended up doing. You can’t win every time.”
Crolla was in a dangerous fight against Barroso. “He had to go into the eye of the storm and weather the storm. I said all along we have to take him into deep waters, that was always the plan but it was making him work and run at a pace and fight at a pace that he wasn’t comfortable with and the main concern was to not get caught early and let him grow into the fight,” Gallagher explained. “I didn’t really see anybody really hit Barroso and I thought there’s no point standing outside, tippy tappy, tippy tappy, because we’ve got to be on the end of everything. We’re not that clever with southpaws, we hadn’t fought many beforehand and I thought, ‘Listen let’s do what Anthony does best, let’s get him on the front foot, get up close, block everything and don’t risk anything early on but as it goes on, if you see a little opening hit it. I was surprised how quick he [Barroso] came apart.
“It’s just brilliant when someone listens in the corner and carries it out to a tee. It’s just fantastic. That’s what makes it more exciting. He didn’t win with a lucky shot but he won with what you planned with. There’s no better feeling for me as a coach.”