Anthony Crolla: ‘Anybody who knows the lightweight division knows Daud Yordan can fight’
British lightweight Anthony Crolla has achieved so much over the last three years that it’s easy to forget how close he was to losing the sport which defined him.
In December 2014, Crolla was struck by a concrete slab while foiling a burglary at a neighbor’s home. The Manchester man sustained a fractured skull, a badly broken ankle, and there were many who believed his professional career was over.
Not by a long shot.
Crolla, who is rated No. 5 by The Ring at 135 pounds, won the WBA lightweight title from Darleys Perez in November 2015. He defended it once against then-unbeaten puncher Ismael Barroso, before facing the superb Jorge Linares for the Ring Magazine championship. The talented Englishman lost two fights to Linares, but he is still performing well at top level.
I’ve interviewed Crolla several times since that awful assault, and made the decision long ago not to mention it. Regardless of how he rose from the ashes to achieve his dreams, it was one of the lowest points of his life. However, when I asked why he’d been inactive for the past eight months, there were immediate flashbacks to dark times.
“A screw came out of the plate in my ankle and it ballooned,” revealed Crolla (33-6-3, 13 knockouts) in an interview with The Ring. “It was almost like a cone-shape coming out of my ankle, and I couldn’t train with it because I was at risk of infection.
“I had a minor operation, got the screw removed, and then I needed a bit of rehab. That was the reason I didn’t have a fight in July. The rehab took a bit longer than I thought, but the ankle is great now. I’m happy, good to go and better than ever.”
And Crolla will have to make good on that self-assessment because on Saturday he faces hard-hitting Daud Yordan (38-3, 26 KOs) at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Yordan, a 31-year-old power-puncher from Indonesia, has been looking to break free of the lightweight pack for a very long time, and this is the type of opportunity he’s been craving.
“It’s definitely a test,” said Crolla in earnest. “I’ve got to be at my best here because anything less won’t be good enough. Last time out, Yordan went over to Russia and knocked out an unbeaten prospect (Pavel Malikov), and he’s been around world level for many years now.
“He’s only got three losses and all of those were to good company. One of his losses was to Chris John, who has a win over the great Juan Manuel Marquez. Anybody who knows the lightweight division knows Yordan can fight. He’s rated high with the WBA for a reason.”
So, as Crolla intimated, Yordan is capable, powerful and dangerous. So what does the home fighter do to win?
“There will be times when I look to box, but I like to come forward too,” Crolla said. “We might very well meet in the center of the ring, but I’ve got to be smart. I don’t want to just stand there banging away, and I’ve got to use my boxing brain.
“Yordan’s got good shot selection, he’s strong and he’s got a good engine on him. He’s beating good opponents by walking them down. I don’t know if this is a criticism, but he doesn’t mind taking one to give one. That’s not what I do, but I think the styles will gel. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a really good fight.”
Should he prevail, there exists the very real possibility that Crolla could face the ultimate test. And that is not hyperbole because victory over Yordan would make “Million Dollar” Crolla mandatory challenger for pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“This is a final WBA eliminator,” confirmed Crolla. “There will be people with their opinions on social media, but I’m not, in any way, calling out Lomachenko. I’m not even thinking about that fight until after Saturday because I would never overlook Daud Yordan.
“If I become mandatory, we’ll see what happens. I’m not an idiot, and I know that Lomachenko will go whatever way he wants to go. It’s not like he’s not gonna get stripped. We’ll see what happens, but a win here puts me in a good position. I would be mandatory for a world title.”
Now in his 13th year as a professional, Crolla continues to forge ahead with a very special career. Through hard work, determination and talent, he has overcome critics, career-threatening injury and quality opposition.
Despite it all, the amiable 31-year-old still sounds in love with the sport, and his aspirations for success remain unshakeable.
“I’ve had a fantastic camp, everything’s improving, and I believe I’m boxing better than ever,” said Crolla. “(Trainer) Joe (Gallagher) believes that too, but I’ve got to show it on Saturday. I can say all I want about how the best is still to come, but I’ve got to show it.”
Crolla vs. Yordan is the chief support to the undisputed cruiserweight title bout between champion Aleksandr Usyk and challenger Tony Bellew. The show will be broadcast on Sky Box Office in the U.K. and DAZN in the U.S.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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