Anthony Crolla, still healing but re-energized, begins journey back
A fractured skull, a serious concussion, a broken ankle, a world title dream left in tatters and things could actually have been worse for popular lightweight contender Anthony Crolla.
The former British champion, who was due to face WBA titleholder Richar Abril on Jan. 23 in Manchester, was hospitalized following an altercation with two burglars, who were allegedly robbing a neighbor’s home, and the injuries he sustained could have cost him his life.
“My head injury has thankfully been given the all clear now,” said Crolla, who was struck just below his hairline by a concrete slab. “I have a plate and screws in my ankle so I’ll need a long period of rehab, but I’ll do everything I can to make a quick recovery. Being young and fit will help with that.
“If this hadn’t happened then I would have been in hard training through Christmas so I was expecting a quiet holiday, but it was quiet for all the wrong reasons. Still, it was a Christmas that I’ll be forever thankful for because my injuries could have been a lot worse.”
An arrest was made shortly after the assault but that did little to quell the physical and mental pain Crolla was suffering. His cherished world title shot was gone and a bleak recovery period lay ahead.
Only the solid foundation of family and friends, as well as an enormous outpouring of support from peers and fans alike, metaphorically lifted the stricken fighter off the canvas.
Crolla said, “When someone in boxing encounters unfortunate circumstances everyone involved in the game rallies round. When I was able to look through my Twitter page, I was just completely overwhelmed.
“From local lads, to kids across the country who I’ve never met, to the best amateur and professional fighters in Britain, to a great heavyweight champion like Lennox Lewis, it was just amazing. I wish I could thank all of them individually because those messages meant the world to me and my family.”
Crolla (29-4-2, 11 knockouts) is re-energized and innately, as a fighter, the self-motivation process has begun with sights firmly set on the future.
“I love the sport and really miss it,” said the affable 28 year old. “You realize in this position just how much you miss the routine, the runs, the gym time and even the fatigue. I don’t want to rush things but a realistic timescale for me boxing again would probably be the summer.”
“I’ve had time to sit back and evaluate things and I’m even more determined to put the hard work in and secure another title shot. I want to repay all the people who were there for me by becoming a world champion.”
Crolla faces an arduous uphill battle and the game plan to regain fighting trim will be every bit as complex as the strategy to win a world title. The Manchester man is well aware of that but is already exhibiting the symptoms of a locked down prize fighter.
“To be honest I’m just looking forward to letting my hands go and it’s hard to do that on crutches,” said Crolla, with well-timed humor. “I’ll be watching fights on DVD or YouTube and rather than shadow boxing, my priority will be to keep my leg up.
“I need to find out what exercises will work for me in the upcoming months. Running is something that I’ll probably hold back on, because of my ankle, but there are various machines I can use and I’ll obviously be very disciplined throughout rehab.”
Unbeaten for over two years, Crolla has reeled off solid wins against former WBA junior welterweight title holder Gavin Rees and former world title challenger John Murray. Consequently, when asked about future targets, the technician only called out the lightweight division’s top exponents.
Crolla said, “It would be great to reschedule a date with Richar Abril but, if not, I want the biggest fight possible. Abril will fight again soon and, providing he keeps his belt, the WBA may enforce a mandatory on him so it’s hard to say what will happen. I’m also ranked very high with the WBO (No. 2) so something could open up there.
“My team will decide what the best move is and then I’ll do the fighting.”
It’s rare for a fighter to live up to his moniker but “Million Dollar” Crolla is worth every cent.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing