Anthony Crolla British Champion

On Saturday night there was a cold breeze in the 106 year old former circus arena that is now Liverpool’s Olympia.  It seemed the heating must have packed in a long time ago at the old Locarno.

But when Anthony Crolla and John Watson’s fight erupted around 9.30pm, the heat indoors was red hot and the two brave warriors who battled for the British lightweight title did the famous Lonsdale Belt proud in a terrific fight.

Manchester’s ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla, systematically took apart John Watson and broke him down for nine rounds, before finishing the home fighter with a right hook, putting an end to this small hall classic in devastating fashion.
Crolla stepped into this fight with just two weeks notice, while preparing for a defence of his English super-featherweight title, which was also going to double as an eliminator for the British belt in that division. But with Gavin Rees pulling out of his rematch with Watson and vacating the strap. Crolla was offered this shot at the Lonsdale belt in the division above his, it took him less than 10 seconds to say ‘Yes please’.

Crolla and his teams decision proved to be a stroke of great professional judgement. Crolla’s trainer and student of boxing, Joe Gallagher set about devising a game plan to break down the bigger Watson and Crolla who came into the fight as the underdog carried out the instructions to the letter.
Crolla proudly wears his Lonsdale belt

The fight was primed from the beginning to be an encounter for the purists, it had the Liverpool, Manchester derby twist to it and these two old fashioned type pugilists didn’t disappoint the northwest boxing crowd.

Crolla was initiating the attacks and forced the pace from the start of the fight from behind a tight high defence, he was able to stay in range of Watson’s own work, tucking up well and willing to take what the scouser had to give, in order to land his own telling shots of which he was putting together with great effect to Watson’s head and body.
There was a confident look from Crolla before and during the fight and you sensed that he was not going to be denied on the night he had the chance to achieve his life long dream of winning a British championship belt. If a fighter ever came of age before your eyes, then this was it. Crolla’s battles of the past and the disappointments in his career have all helped him become a fighter of real substance.
Watson certainly had his own successes in the fight and made Crolla dig deep into his resolve to come through the gum shield biting moments that eventually separated these two gladiators into a winner and loser. Crolla’s intensity and his sheer will to win was starting to wear down Watson and after a smashing 6th round that had the fans on their feet and encroaching the ring to get closer to the action. The round had took more out of Watson than Crolla and it seemed from here on in, that the Mancunian knew he had his opponents number.
After the midway point Crolla’s tactics changed and he began to pick off and knock back the head of a disorganised Watson who was really starting to feel the fast pace set by a composed Crolla who started to pick his moments to land on an open Watson, who was being driven past his pain threshold by his home crowd and fighting spirit.

In the 9th round Crolla again upped the pace doubling up his jab and looking to drop in the big right hand that he eventually did. Crolla backed Watson to the ropes and smartly stepped forward with his right foot, leaned to Watsons left and immediately threw a right hook from a southpaw stance, that crashed off Watson’s jaw sending him to the canvas at 2.35 of the round.
The referee didn’t take up the count and waved the fight over so the ringside medical team of doctors could administer first aid to Watson. For a few agonising minutes he lay on the canvas to the worry of everyone in the arena. When Watson rose to his feet and waved to the crowd to let them know he was ok, they all joined in sync Mancs and scousers to show there relief and respect for what had just took place.

The Gallagher gym in Manchester already boasts the best lightweight in the country, former holder of the British title himself and current unbeaten European champion John Murray a training and sparring partner for Crolla. The manner of Crolla’s performance against Watson, sometimes mirrored the style and intensity of a Murray one and the experience of sparring with his world rated gym mate will have all added to his portfolio.

Gallagher boxing team celebrate Crolla’s title win

Crolla looks like he will have to make the first defence of his newly won belt against Gavin Rees and that again would be a good one. But there was a lot in Crollas boxing at the Olympia on Saturday night to suggest that he is a force to be reckoned with at lightweight. He has the look of a contented man confident in his fitness and boxing ability, who is willing to go in the trenches of boxing warfare when needed. He proved in his last fight against Andy Morris that he has what it takes to go through the barrier, claim a second wind and triumph through adversity. These gifts were to serve him well again here and can take him a long way in his chosen graft. Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla, the New British Lightweight Champion… It couldn’t have happened to a nicer chap.  


Undercard results.

A few years back former British and European champion Colin Lynes against former commonwealth holder Bradley Pryce would have been a top of the bill fight. But when the two former champions entered the ring on Saturday night, only the ardent fans had made it from the Olympia bar to see Lynes out fox Pryce over 8 rounds, just taking the referees verdict 78-77.

Unbeaten Ajose Olusegun, the London based Nigerian out-pointed Polish journeyman Arek Malek over six rounds to extend his unbeaten run. Malek put up a good fight but Olusegun’s cleaner punching and general ring craft was too much for Malek.

Local favorite Steve Williams the former English light-welterweight champion, stopped Motherwell’s Paul King at 2.05 of the second round.

By Chris Maylett