Anthony Crolla denied WBA lightweight title win by judges' decision
Last Updated: 19/07/15 12:21pm
Anthony Crolla and Darleys Perez controversially drew their world title fight to deny the Manchester fighter a fairytale conclusion to his personal troubles over the past year.
Injuries sustained when confronting burglars had kept Crolla out of the ring since November 2014 and he seemed poised for a classic hometown victory in Manchester on Saturday night until the judges' decisions were revealed and a split draw announced.
Initially Crolla and Perez each had one judge hand them the win and the third scored a draw (114-113, 111-116, 113-113) despite the travelling champion having two points deducted for illegal low blows.
The score of the first judge though was incorrectly read out. The scorecard should have read 113-113, 111-116, 113-113). This changed the decision to a majority draw, although this would have been little consolation for Crolla.
The 28-year-old Crolla's emotional evening was reminiscent of Ricky Hatton's tear-jerking win over Kostya Tszyu in the same city a decade ago but the WBA lightweight title went home with Perez and left the home crowd stunned into silence.
Crolla's performance was built on efficient work-rate - he out-moved and out-punched the Colombian visitor and did so intelligently and with a clear game-plan in mind created in Joe Gallagher's gym.
Perez frequently loaded up and occasionally landed the harder blows but Crolla's ability to systematically nip in and out of range took the titleholder out of his comfort zone.
The punch of the night occurred in the second round, when Crolla's looping right hook thumped its target but the wily Colombian sneered back at the Mancunian, daring him to walk forwards and fight at close quarters, but it was clear that damage had been done.
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Crolla spent the next couple of rounds on the front foot, forcing his foe to miss, which he frequently obliged to do with reckless and hopeful shots. Nobody committed in the fifth or sixth, with Crolla seemingly confident he was leading the race, but Perez would stage a fightback.
An eye-catching three-punch combination that finished with an uppercut didn't seem to faze Crolla but scored points nonetheless, and before the eighth round it became clear the hometown fighter was cut beneath his right eye.
Perez poured more pressure on but had the look of a champion aware his belt was slipping away. While he was still landing, Crolla was matching fire with fire in the exchange of jabs through the ninth.
Two right hands in the 10th from Perez reminded a celebrating Manchester crowd that the fight was not over but low blows earned a stern scolding from the referee. Crolla won a pair of exchanges on the ropes until a further low blow from Perez in the eleventh resulted in the official taking a point away.
Perez was busier throughout the penultimate period but Crolla continued moving forwards regardless of any shots that he absorbed. He was stunned by some close-range punches in the last round but footwork and a commitment to boxing at distance meant Crolla wasn't dragged into a war. A last-gasp low blow from Perez resulted in a second point removed.
Crolla was initially hoisted onto the shoulders of his team but body language dramatically changed moments before Michael Buffer announced the official verdict.