Anthony Crolla not the first Briton to make a daunting first defence
By Isaac Robinson
Last Updated: 03/05/16 11:51am
Anthony Crolla is in at the deep end as he makes his first world title defence against Ismael Barroso. Which British champions took similar risks?
Crolla puts the WBA lightweight title he won from Darleys Perez on the line in Manchester, as the unbeaten Barroso - fresh from retiring Londoner Kevin Mitchell - visits the UK for a second time.
The home fighter (30-4-3-KO12) will enjoy boisterous local support against the visiting Venezuelan southpaw but there's no doubt that the task facing him is a daunting one, so let's delve into history for some guidance.
v Sugar Ray Robinson, September 12, 1951
In Robinson's 133rd fight (he would retire after his 200th), the legendary American came to London to take on 'The Leamington Licker', Turpin. Only Jake LaMotta had beaten Robinson at that point, but Turpin sent the 18,000 who attended Earls Court wild as he outpointed the favourite over 15 rounds.
A return match in New York was set for two months later and, as expected, Turpin was unable to repeat the trick in his first defence. Although he had already sustained a nasty cut above his left eye, Robinson ensured the safe return of his world middleweight belt with a heavy right hand in the 10th. 61,370 had turned up to the Polo Grounds to watch Turpin's reign ended in two months and two days.
v Vito Antuofermo, June 28, 1980
Crawley middleweight Minter had been British and European champion and went on to step up to world level in style - taking the WBC and WBA crowns from Antuofermo with a split decision in Las Vegas. Antuofermo - who went on to forge a successful career as an actor - had forced a draw with the great Marvin Hagler in his previous bout.
Minter made his maiden defence back on home soil against the Brooklyn-based Italian at the now-Wembley Arena. This time, the champion was able to pull off a more clear-cut victory with an eighth-round stoppage. It proved Minter's first and last successful defence; he was stopped in three by Hagler later the same year on a night of ugly scenes at the same venue.
v Iran Barkley, August 18, 1990
Benn's all-action style had already earned him a growing American fan base by the time he lit up Atlantic City with an eight-round stoppage of Doug DeWitt to become WBO world middleweight champion. The next stop on the incredible journey of 'The Dark Destroyer' was Las Vegas, where he met his first challenger in the hard-hitting Iran Barkley.
Barkley's previous three fights had all been world title bouts - including a stoppage victory over Thomas 'Hitman' Hearns - but a more emphatic, explosive first defence you will struggle to find. Benn came out all guns blazing, survived a huge Barkley counter and then stopped his man in the very first round.
v Mike Tyson, March 16, 1996
Opening defences don't come with much more menace than facing Tyson, who was chasing a world title for the first time since his imprisonment. Bruno had finally forced his way to world champion status by outpointing Oliver McCall at a jubilant Wembley and was determined to avenge a 1989 defeat to 'The Baddest Man on the Planet.'
Fighting Stateside for just the third time in his career, Bruno lost his WBC crown via a brutal third-round stoppage, Tyson unloading those trademark short-hooks forcing the referee to jump in to save Bruno from further punishment on the ropes. Tyson was back on top, sending Bruno into retirement.
v Jermain Taylor, April 25, 2009
A pair of 2005 victories over Bernard Hopkins put Taylor in the mix as one of the sport's leading operators, but his star had fallen slightly by the time he challenged Froch - who had beaten Jean Pascal for the vacant WBC super-middleweight belt - in that he'd suffered back-to-back defeats to Kelly Pavlik and handed over the WBC and WBO world middleweight titles.
Taylor stepped up a division to take on fellow American Jeff Lacy in an eliminator and earned his shot at Froch. In a classic, Froch hauled himself up from a third-round knockdown to work his way back into it. In the final session, the Nottingham warrior stunned the Connecticut crowd by throwing everything at his opponent to force a dramatic stoppage.
v Wladimir Klitschko, July 9, 2016
Fury famously caused an upset in Dusseldorf in November 2015, producing a remarkably disciplined display to relieve Klitschko of the WBA Super, WBO and IBF world heavyweight titles, becoming the first man to beat the Ukrainian in over 11 years in the process.
On July 9 at the Mancester Arena, Fury will meet the 40-year-old again in their contracted rematch. Despite the prospect of enjoying more familiar surroundings, Fury is currently the underdog with the bookmakers once again. Whether Klitschko needed a defeat to rekindle his desire or whether Fury can bewilder him again, it's a serious task for the new world champion.
Watch Crolla v Barroso live on Sky Sports 2, May 7 from 7.30pm