Newly crowned world WBA Lightweight champion Anthony Crolla faces a stern test of his champion status credentials in a tough match up against hard-hitting Venezuelan Ismael Barroso on Saturday evening at the Manchester Arena.
Crolla was last seen putting things right against Perez by stopping the former champion in the fifth round in their rematch. Meanwhile at the O2 late last year, Ismael Barroso brushed aside his underdog tag to destroy Kevin Mitchell with a relentless and brutal fifth round flurry which ended the fight in a way few could have envisaged beforehand.
Anthony Crolla is a real professional and well-liked personality in boxing circles and of course, he has every chance of defending his crown. The match betting is very close, with Crolla a top price of 11/10 (Betfred, Sportingbet, Coral) for the win and Barroso trading as the 10/11 favourite (Bet365) and 8/11 generally. But there was something really venomous and somewhat ominous about the way Barroso finished Kevin Mitchell, who you would have to feel would be reasonably well fancied to beat Crolla had that been the fight. Barroso could just be a diamond in the rough and as an awkward southpaw fighter who hits hard and in flurries, it seems quite likely he will find and test the chin of Crolla.
Crolla held a public workout on Monday and told Sky Sports: “I always believe that, when you’re a world champion, you take on the best possible challenges and Ismael Barroso certainly fits that bill. Very dangerous, very avoided.” It’s clear Crolla is under no illusions as to the challenge facing him, but confidence remains high.
“I’m very proud of the title and it’s something that I’ve worked very hard to get. That’s why I’ve left no stone unturned to make sure that belt stays in Manchester.”
Romantics and patriotism aside, it’s difficult to get the finish of Mitchell by Barroso out of the memory. So devastating, clinical and effective were his punches that night that Crolla will surely struggle to survive if Barroso can bring the same, or even an improved, gameplan to the table. For that reason, Barroso to win by stoppage gets the vote.