Anthony Crolla has some serious soul-searching to do after the Mancunian suffered his second world-title defeat in succession to Jorge Linares, although he insisted on Sunday that the loss will not deter him in his bid to become a world champion again.
In the contest for the World Boxing Association lightweight title, Crolla displayed great heart and determination despite being on the wrong end of a masterclass from the Venezuelan at Manchester Arena. Crolla was dropped in the seventh round by a slicing uppercut, but game enough to pull himself together and go the distance.
In fairness, the gap between the fighters was very wide, with shutout unanimous points decisions, 118-109, on all three judges’ cards. I gave Crolla just the share of the first round, and the eighth. Linares, a three-weight, four-time world champion, bossed the contest with his superior armoury.
The division at 135lb has some mouthwatering match-ups and Linares will is now likely to face Mikey Garcia, the World Boxing Council champion, in the United States, next. But Linares’ promoter, Oscar de la Hoya, told The Daily Telegraph that there were “more options”, which could include the Mancunian Terry Flanagan.
Crolla, if he wants to, has a ready-made narrative in another title contest, against Terry Flanagan, the World Boxing Organisation champion, who has a tough defence of his own on April 8 in his home city against the experienced Petr Petrov, an aggressive Russian based in Madrid.
“There are still plenty of options out there for me,” said Crolla, 30, who revealed rib injuries, having arrived late to the post-fight media conference with eight stitches above his eye from a cut sustained in the second half of the fight. “I just want to be involved in the big fights again. I’ll have a break, lick my wounds and hopefully have another attack on a world title, whichever route that may be.”
Flanagan, speaking to The Daily Telegraph on Sunday morning, said he was not looking past Petrov, but said Sky Sports’ coverage of the event on Saturday night “omitted my name from the broadcast as if it were a dirty word”.
“I have what I see as a 50/50 fight with Petrov, but the fight with Crolla would be huge here,” said Flanagan. “Of course I want it, but I want the other champions again. I’d fight any of them.”
Eddie Hearn, clear that Crolla is a free agent promotionally, said the final decision on where to go next would rest with the boxer and his trainer, Joe Gallagher, insisting there would be no shortage of options when he made his ring return, including Flanagan, but even suggesting that Crolla could move up to light-welterweight, five pounds heavier, and look at a fight against Scotsman Ricky Burns.
“There is talk about the Terry Flanagan fight and that could be an option down the line,” Hearn said, adding that it would take “a seven-figure sum” for Crolla to make that fight happen. Crolla is understood to have earned £600,000 on Saturday night.
“Flanagan’s not the same level of draw as Crolla, but he is a champion. We’re currently not a champion but there are other options as well.”
Hearn added: “Ricky Burns is also unifying the division on April 15. I wouldn’t rule out moving up to take on the winner of that fight but I will just put the options in front of Anthony and Joe. They will make the final decision on what he does next.”