By Alex Beard (@alex_beard17)
Anthony Crolla put in a brave performance on Saturday night but was ultimately outclassed by Jorge Linares, surrendering his WBA lightweight world title in the process. The Manchester man is no stranger to adversity in the ring (he has now been defeated on five occasions), but has shown in the past that he is capable of rebounding superbly from disappointment. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five best options for Crolla’s next outing.
Jorge Linares – I’ll get the obvious one out of the way early on. A rematch is already being mooted between Venezuelan Linares and ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla, with the two having put on a fantastic fight this past weekend. The pair went toe to toe for 12 hard rounds and both men emerged with their reputations enhanced. With that being said, there was a clear winner in this fight and the judge’s scorecards reflected this – Linares being awarded the decision by scores of 115-114, 115-113 and 117-111.
Crolla’s promoter Eddie Hearn has already indicated that the two will meet again, saying: “There’s a rematch clause. It’s the biggest fight for Linares, I don’t envisage any problems. Because Anthony put up such a good fight the 12-13,000 that were in the Manchester Arena for the first fight will increase next time. And because the money will be big and Linares will think he can win again, they’ll be thinking ‘bring it on’”.
Linares showed his class Saturday night and will undoubtedly feel confident about doing so again. Some of the combinations he stung Crolla with were simply sensational and the hand speed he showed is unlikely to fade in the 4-6 months it would take to put this rematch together. It will be an incredibly tough task for Crolla to unseat this three-weight world champion, but there will be plenty of people who will be excited to see him try.
Derry Mathews – While this fight is unlikely to do much for Crolla’s ranking, it would represent a chance for him to finally exact revenge on the Liverpudlian for the painful knockout loss he administered in 2012. The two met a second time in 2013, with the contest ending that time in a split decision draw. Now, Crolla could have the chance to rebound from a tough loss with an emphatic victory over an old foe. There is the small matter of Mathews’ WBC silver lightweight title fight with Luke Campbell in October to be negotiated first, but win, lose or draw Mathews will still be there as a viable option for Crolla’s return fight. With all due respect to Mathews, this one would also appear to be a far more winnable contest than an immediate rematch with Linares.
Terry Flanagan – This bout has been talked about for some time, and during the build-up to Crolla vs. Linares, Flanagan stated on more than one occasion that he would be extremely interested in a title unification fight with Crolla if he had won on Saturday night. Despite his defeat, Crolla remains an enticing option for Flanagan. While Flanagan is now the sole possessor of a lightweight belt (WBO) between the two, Crolla is undoubtedly the bigger name and would therefore present a healthy financial incentive for Flanagan to fight him. There is a great backstory already in place, too. The pair actually attended the same school in Manchester and have therefore known each other for many years. There is a healthy respect between the two, and it would be fascinating to see which man is the best lightweight in the city.
Robert Easter – If Crolla wants to get back in the ring with a lightweight world champion not named Linares or Flanagan, then look no further than Easter. The American is coming off a career-best win over the previously-unbeaten Richard Commey that saw him snare the vacant IBF lightweight belt. The 25-year-old is one of the most impressive young fighters in the sport and would provide Crolla with the opportunity to get a world title back straight away. While Easter is undoubtedly a special talent, he is yet to meet someone with world-level experience like Crolla. ‘Million Dollar’ would be the toughest test of his young career, and a potential fight between the two would help increase Easter’s profile in boxing-mad Britain. For Crolla, this contest would give him the chance to show that he is still a cut above the other top-tier lightweights, while adding another stellar name to his resume.
Luke Campbell – Depending on the outcome of his fight with Mathews, Campbell could prove to be an excellent option for Crolla if he cannot secure himself a shot at a world title. Both fighters are promoted by Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing which would hopefully make this one easy enough to make. In addition, Campbell is well-known in Britain having won a gold medal at London 2012 and would therefore help move the promotional needle. Campbell’s professional career has not been plain sailing, of course, with the Hull man having suffered his first loss to the experienced Yvan Mendy via split decision in December 2015. Campbell has rebounded well, however, knocking out Gary Sykes in March before outpointing Argenis Mendez in July. If he can beat Mathews as well, then he opens the door to big fights with the likes of Crolla. This fight is similar for Crolla to the Easter fight, minus the world title. What Campbell lacks in silverware though, he makes up for in name-value. He could also be seen as the easiest option on this list, having lost in his previous attempt at a step-up in class, and this one could prove a step too far for Campbell’s young career.by