YOU can rely on Anthony Crolla for two things.
One: good manners. You’ll come away from being in his company sure you’ve just met the nicest guy in boxing. It’s something everybody says.
Two: he has absolutely no issue fighting fellow British boxers. Working back, Crolla has shared a ring with Ricky Burns, John Murray, Stephen Foster, Gavin Rees, Derry Mathews, Kieran Farrell, Willie Limond, John Watson, Andy Morris, Michael Brodie and Gary Sykes.
Quite the resume.
Now, having seen his WBA lightweight belt end up in the hands of Jorge Linares, the next British fighter on Crolla’s radar is Hull’s Luke Campbell, a former Olympic gold medallist gunning for the WBC title.
“It’s a tough, red-hot division,” Crolla told Boxing News. “We’ll know a lot more about what’s going to happen after Saturday (when Jorge Linares fights Vasyl Lomachenko for Crolla’s old belt).
“Luke’s fighting Yvan Mendy next and that could become a world title fight. I don’t know what’s happening with (WBC lightweight champion) Mikey Garcia.
“There’s a great chance we’ll fight. I wish Luke well in his fight with Mendy. If that gets made for a world title and Luke wins, I’d love to be his first defence. Of course I would. It’s another big domestic showdown.
“Luke’s come on really well and has improved a lot and I think our styles would gel and make for a great fight. He’s cool with it. I’m cool with it. Even better if there’s a world title on the line. There’s a lot happening at the minute and I’m not far behind in the queue to get a shot at the world title.”
Aside from the fact it’s a fascinating stylistic match (boxer versus aggressor), Campbell vs. Crolla seems a natural one to make on account of the pair being promoted by the same company (Matchroom Sport), being in the same weight class, and being a couple of nice guys from the same country.
Campbell should be warned, though. Of all those aforementioned all-British clashes, Crolla, 33-6-3 (13), has lost to only two of his countrymen (Sykes and Mathews). Which is to say, keep the popular Mancunian away from smooth and silky Venezeulans and he’s quite the force.
“I believe Luke has improved since the Mendy fight and that’s why it will be interesting to see how he handles Mendy in the rematch,” Crolla said.
“I’m under no illusions. Luke is a much better boxer than I am. He has the better skills and he has the longer and better amateur background. But styles make fights and I do believe if we fought I’d find a way to win.”
You get the sense Crolla could do with a test like Campbell if he’s to recapture the form that saw him break Darleys Perez in half to win the WBA lightweight crown in 2015, and then, six months later, do the same to the dangerous Ismael Barroso.
His last fight, a routine 10-round decision win over unheralded Mexican Edson Ramirez, was more trouble than it was worth. Cut early, Crolla had to box his way to a lopsided victory and received little credit for doing so. As a tune-up, you could argue it served a purpose. But Crolla, at 31, now needs some meatier – more meaningful – assignments.
“The cut was a bad one and with the cut I had to box on the back foot a bit more,” he said of that March night in Cardiff. “I barely lost a round. The next day I was in the hotel getting stitched up and I didn’t even feel like I’d boxed.
“Edson Ramirez wasn’t a top-level opponent but was better than he was given credit for. It was always going to be hard to please people and get credit for a fight like that. I got 10 rounds in against a decent opponent and I’ll build on that now and it will help me when I get a big fight. I prefer being in big fights.
“I’d love to get out in the summer. I’ll be ready. I’m aiming to get myself into a position to challenge for a world title. I’m ranked highly with two of the sanctioning bodies (three with the WBA; five with the WBC) and my aim is to become a world champion again. I think I can do that. I wouldn’t be in the sport if I didn’t think that.”
Typically, after Britain comes the world. But in the case of Anthony Crolla, there’s a good chance, if all goes to plan, he can again establish himself as the best in Britain and also grab a second world title at the very same time.
Which would explain the ‘Million Dollar’ smile.