Anthony Crolla sensational in stoppage of Ismael Barroso
In November he became a world titleholder. He has now proven himself to be a potential superstar.
British hero Anthony Crolla continued a sparkling run of form by scoring a dramatic seventh-round knockout over power-punching southpaw Ismael Barroso to retain the WBA lightweight title in Manchester, England, on Saturday. The official time was 1:31 seconds.
Crolla, who is rated No. 4 by THE RING at 135 pounds, claimed his second body-punch knockout in succession when a perfectly-placed right hand to the solar plexus dropped the visitor to his knees. Blood flowed freely from Barroso’s nose and he showed little interest in beating Howard Foster’s 10 count.
“It got my back up that people said that I would avoid Barroso,” said Crolla when interviewed by Sky Sports in the U.K. “I’m improving all the time and tonight I’ve shown that I’m up there with any lightweight in the world. Barroso hit me as hard as I’ve ever been hit but I knew exactly how the fight was going to go.”
It wasn’t easy but Crolla executed his tactics like an assassin.
In Round 1, Barroso appeared far more technically gifted than he had been given credit for by most experts. The Venezuelan jabbed well out of the southpaw stance, held his shape and navigated the perimeter of the ring with real style.
Barroso (19-1-2, 18 KOs) took that momentum into the second and began punching in threes and fours. Crolla was defensively adept but there wasn’t enough coming back and even at this early stage, it looked like the local favorite had his work cut out for him.
Not to be outgunned, the habitually gallant Crolla began chipping away in the third and a few body shots and one memorable left hook to the head seemed to register. The visitor probably won the session, but he was being made to work very hard and that was key.
It was a cerebral and risky game plan from Crolla but despite sustaining a nasty cut over the right eye, he was quickly on the ascendancy.
The defending titleholder had major success in the fifth and Barroso became noticeably fatigued. Two right hooks shook him badly and he was looking for help from the referee during inside exchanges. In simple terms Barroso, who had never been beyond eight rounds in his career, was gassed.
The sixth was more of the same and this reporter wrote “last round” in his notes as the bell sounded for the seventh.
Crolla (35-4-3, 13 KOs) has seriously upped his game. In July of last year, the Englishman held then-WBA titleholder Darleys Perez to a 12-round majority draw, although the consensus was that he had done enough to prevail. Four months later, that stalemate was forgotten when a single body shot proved decisive in the fifth round of the rematch and tonight’s result is further affirmation of Crolla’s quality.
So what’s next?
There has been a lot of talk about Crolla facing WBO lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan in a domestic unification clash. Both men hail from the Manchester area, they’ve known each other since childhood and such a contest would generate massive interest in the U.K. and be of great benefit to the division.
“It’s about platforms,” said Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn, signaling that Flanagan is no longer worthy in his opinion. “Anthony Crolla just proved himself the number one lightweight in the world. His name is “Million Dollar” so let’s go and get some.”
Another sticking point in the road to that bout is politics. Flanagan, who is rated No. 3 by THE RING at lightweight, is promoted by Frank Warren who, let’s just say, doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with Hearn. Crolla also fights under the Sky Sports banner, whereas Flanagan is exclusive to BoxNation. That’s a lot of red tape to get through for this neighborhood dustup to transpire.
Regardless, the night belonged to Crolla, who weighed in officially at 134.5 pounds with Barroso at 134.3.
Three-time world title challenger Martin Murray (33-3-1, 16 KOs) stayed busy with a ridiculously easy second-round stoppage of Cedric Spera at super middleweight. Murray flew out of the blocks in search of an early finish over what he knew was an inferior opponent and seemed a little anxious in the opening session. As soon as the Englishman found the range, however, he decked his man with a perfect left hook to the body in the second. When Spera rose, Murray stayed in hot pursuit and a sharp three-punch combination produced another knockdown and forced the referee’s intervention.
Murray is scheduled to face another three-time world title challenger, George Groves, in London on June 25.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing