The Mancunian Rocky: from adversity to Million Dolla, boxer Anthony Crolla

Boxer Anthony Crolla is a Manchester legend. Billed as the city’s answer to the Rocky story, the label was hard-earned for the young boxer, who made his professional debut back in 2006 on the undercard of Joe Calzaghe v Sakio Bika at the Manchester Arena, a venue that the Mancunian prospect would thrive in a further 13 times throughout his career. A couple of early career losses were then overcome on the journey to winning the British lightweight title in 2011.

But before he had the shot at claiming a world title, Anthony Crolla would have to face an almost career-ending setback. In late 2014, he was the victim of a vicious attack while defending his neighbours’ property from burglars, and ended up in hospital having been hit across the head with a concrete slab.

Within 12 months, he’d drawn against and then beaten Darleys Perez and claimed the WBA lightweight title, going to provide legendary nights for his dedicated fanbase.

Now retired and working to train the next generation of fighters, including his brother Will, Crolla speaks openly to PathFinders about his incredible career, both in and out of the ring, and what his hopes are for the future.  

Did you yourself believe that you were going to become world champion even very early in your career?

Yeah, I did. Don’t get me wrong, if I would have been saying at some points in my career, I’d have probably got locked up saying I’m going to be a world champion when I’d lost early on in my career a few times. But I always knew what I was capable of and it’s just about sort of getting it right on the night and maturing and that a little bit of luck .

Hard work is what gets you there a lot of the times. And talent as well, a mixture of things. But a lot of the times you need that little bit of luck. There’s been some unbelievable boxers, unbelievable fighters who’ve not managed to get to where they wanted to, not got the break for one reason over and over. Thankfully, I did get my break.

I feel like I never stopped sort of believing that I could get to that level deep down, you know, like I said, even when I was sharing a bunk bed with my brother after fights! I was bluffing the Million Dolla nickname for so long!

Anthony Crolla finally achieved his dream of a world title in the second fight with Darleys Perez, after overcoming a horrific injury. He describes his journey:

“It happened in the December; I was meant to fight in January. I chased some burglars who were in my neighbour’s house a few streets away and then copped for a concrete slab on my head on the blind side and ended up seriously injured in hospital.

Talking about dark moments, that was definitely up there. I believed after that night that it had all been taken away from me. I was just praying doing all the rehab, hoping that one day I’d get cleared to box again.

But obviously on the first day, with the injuries I did think, no chance. I was down and I was thinking, I have a young family. I just moved into my first house with girlfriend and my little boy and it was a pride thing. Thinking I’ve got to provide for them. And the only way I know how to provide is to box and, and I think it might’ve been taken away from me.

So, I was it was the pride. Imagine I have to send them back to live at her mum and dads, because I can’t afford to look after them. Hopefully I would have been successful at something else. It was a horrible, worrying time.

Thankfully it then I got a second chance and that’s what that second chance and that was part of the courage building. I was always dedicated, but I knew I had to get it absolutely everything to make sure I fulfilled, you know, what I wanted to do.

You live, you learn, and everything happens for a reason, don’t it? It very nearly cost me my career, and it could have cost me more, but thankfully it didn’t.”

Watch the video above to hear the full interview.

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