The story of Anthony Crolla is inspirational, with the 29-year-old Manchester native WBA Lightweight Champion since flooring Colombian Darleys Perez at the second time of asking in November, less than a year after sustaining a head injury while fending off burglars at a neighbours’ home.
He might face his biggest challenge since at the MEN Arena and looks a little too short at 3/5 to beat WBC title-holder Jorge Linares, the outsider at 23/17 odds.
The latter holds by far the better record, winning 40 of his 43 fights, 27 coming by way of knockout, with Crolla’s back catalogue containing 31 victories in 38 bouts and just 13 KOs.
Linares goes into the clash off the back of a nine-fight winning streak, with two of his three career losses coming over six months between 2011-2012, while Crolla has failed to get over the line in five of his past 13 outings.
The Venezuelan has been boxing at this end of the spectrum for some time, taking the WBC Featherweight belt at the first attempt in 2007 in Nevada and seeing off the likes of Jesus Chavez and Gamaliel Diaz on his way up to Lightweight.
Only two of Linares’ last seven fights have gone past the fourth, with Dominican opponent Francisco Contrares battered in a first-round blitz three years ago in Tokyo, and he went some way to ending the career of Kevin Mitchell when beating the ‘Dagenham Destroyer’ at the O2 Arena 16 months ago.
Crolla’s form since his heroics two Xmases ago has been exemplary, with Perez downed the second time round after a draw many believed should have gone the Brit’s way, while the seventh-round knockout win over Ismael Barosso last time out proved one again he packs a punch.
That might not be enough against a boxer unbeaten for over four years, and with two of Linares’ past three wins coming in the fourth round, 35/1 about the same outcome here looks big.