By Shaun Brown /

Only in boxing.

Two friends punch lumps out of one another for half an hour, putting aside their friendship for local bragging rights and to take another step on the ladder to fighting for world honours. And when Anthony Crolla 28-4-1 (11 KOs) had finally halted the unrelenting and valiant challenge of John Murray 33-3 (20 KOs) after 10 rounds in front of a fervent Manchester crowd last Saturday night, the two British lightweights shook hands and continued their friendship after the dust had settled.

With Crolla in a “Zombie like state” for a few days after a lack of sleep due to aches and pains, he then received a call from the friend that gave them to him.

“It was really nice of him (Murray) to phone,” Crolla told BoxingScene.

“We said we’ll meet up in the next week or two and grab some food or something. We just talked about the fight and we had a good chat. It was really nice to go over it. We both enjoyed the night, the occasion, the build-up and everything that came with it. It was a great thing for Manchester boxing and for us both to be involved in. We were mates before it and after a great fight like that we’re still mates I have even more respect for him now.”

With his body now healed, Crolla told me he is ready to go again. After three of his last four bouts having been against top ten British lightweights, the 27-year-old is now looking for a world title shot in the coming months and hopes that a win in his next fight, at the very least, will earn him a spot to contest one.

“The domestic scene is fantastic and there’s some great fights there but I feel like I’ve paid my dues. I’ve not got a problem fighting those fighters but the ultimate goal is a world title. If it’s not my next fight then I’d like to get in a position to fight for one.

“It’s not for me to say I’m above that level but I feel as though I’ve earned my shot. I’ve earned my stripes. I’ve been in good domestic fights and not ducked anyone. Now hopefully [my promoter] Eddie [Hearn] and the team behind me are gonna do their very best to get me a world title shot at some point. I’d like some sort of meaningful fight. I’m not saying Saturday wasn’t one, I don’t mean it like that, but I want a big fight for me. I believe I’ve earned my shot and I don’t believe anyone can say differently.”

Crolla knows that whichever world champion he could possibly face at 135lbs, it will be anything but straightforward. In Terence Crawford (WBO), Miguel Vazquez (IBF), Richar Abril (WBA) and Omar Figueroa (WBC) there are various challenges of craft, guile, awkwardness and grit. Crolla doesn’t mind who it is in the other corner.

“If any of those fights were offered I’d snap their hands off and take it,” he said.

“You can’t look at those world champions and say ‘That route’s better, that route’s easier’. I honestly believe it’s one of the toughest divisions. I know it is domestically but on the world stage when you look those fighters, if you asked the opinion of boxing people who the best lightweight is they’d be split. I honestly couldn’t say which one was harder or easier. It’d be a pleasure to share a ring with any of them.”

And what about Ricky Burns? The Scot who was comfortably out-pointed when losing his WBO belt to Crawford last month had been consistently linked with Crolla during his reign as a world champion. I asked the Mancunian if the fight still interests him.

“I’ve got great respect for Ricky. We’ve been due to fight a few times and it’s not happened. Ricky’s a great fighter and I want to test myself against the best and I see a fight with Ricky as that being what I would be doing. If the fight happens, it happens. If not, so be it. I don’t want to be chasing that fight and be the way Junior Witter was to Ricky Hatton. It’d be a pleasure to fight him. Ricky’s going his route and I’m going my route and if our paths cross, and there’s a good chance they will then the fight will happen. At the minute it won’t be happening.”

There were doubts about Crolla when he moved up to 135lbs from 130lbs a few years ago. Would he be strong enough? Is he not just a Super featherweight? Will he have the power? With wins over former world champion, Gavin Rees and former world title challenger, John Murray, those questions have been comprehensively answered. His confidence is growing. His performances are improving and credit is down to him and his trainer Joe Gallagher. So why does Gallagher come in for so much flak these days, especially on social networks?

“There’s some brilliant boxing fans out there, 99% of them are but you get the small minority. Whatever they want to say about Joe is their opinion and they’re entitled to it but what you can’t deny is that he’s doing brilliant things in a big way.

“I think if you get a parody account made about you then you’re doing something right (laughs). Those people that have done that have done Joe a favour. It’s given him more and more publicity. It does make me laugh. I’ve saw people on social networks say: ‘I’ve got nowt against Crolla but I want him to get knocked out because I can’t stand Gallagher’. We’re a team, what do you want me to say?: ‘Yeah, great don’t worry about it. You want me to get knocked out?’ If you’re wishing Joe’s fighters to get knocked out to get at Joe then you’re wishing it to us personally as well.”

Like the rest of the close-knit Gallagher’s gym, Crolla shrugs off the stick that his trainer gets. He knows he has the right man in his corner and is continually seeing improvements in all aspects of his boxing with much more to come.

“I believe I’m improving all the time. I’ve got a lot more improving to do which is a good thing. I’ve grown as a fighter and the last few performances have been getting better. And with each fight I want to raise my performance which is something that I believe that I’m more than capable of doing.”–77198

article-2608786-1D357EBC00000578-460_634x388Tough: Anthony Crolla stopped good friend John Murray in the 10th round of the battle of Manchester

Photos/Getty Images

Article by:  Mike Dawes –

Anthony Crolla won the battle of Manchester by sensationally stopping John Murray in the 10th round.

The 27-year-old successfully defended his WBO inter-continental title in the process, a result that propels his world title hopes.

In a contest to be fought at lightning speed, Crolla just managed to come out on top against his good friend and former gym-mate.

article-2608786-1D358B3200000578-494_634x424Worry: Murray put ‘the fear of God’ into Crolla, according to the eventual winner in a gruelling battle

article-2608786-1D3586A500000578-241_634x469Done: Crolla successfully defended his WBO inter-continental title with the stoppage win on Saturday night

Murray started very quickly and had Crolla on the ropes in the third round, but the favourite grew into it – coming well out on top from the eighth onwards.

‘It was even tougher than I expected,’ Crolla told Sky Sports. ‘No matter how tough that looked, me and John were the luckiest men in this arena.

‘I prepared for this fight like no other, John put the fear of god into me. I remember how tough those sparring sessions were and I knew I had to keep a cool head in a hot kitchen.’

Murray did concede that Crolla had the better of it.

‘I gave it my all, I was the best I’ve been in training and he’s beaten me at my best,’ he said. ‘I want to take my hat off to Anthony because he was bang on.

‘I don’t want to make any excuses, as the rounds went on maybe I began to feel the inactivity but full respect to Anthony, I had a full camp and felt great.’

Could’ve been different: Murray started at lightning speed and landed a number of punches on his opponent

Big win: Crolla’s world title hopes have been propelled as he beat his former gym-mate at the Phones 4u arena

A clash between 34-year-old former WBO featherweight champion Scott Harrison (26-2-2, 15 KO’s) and former EBU lightweight champion John Murray (31-2, 18 KO’s) is possible for the undercard of the Ricky Burns vs. Kevin Mitchell bout on September 22nd in Glasgow, Scotland.

It’s a risky fight for both guys, as Harrison hasn’t fought a high level opponent in seven years, and only recently make a comeback after a 7-year layoff, beating the inexperienced Gyorgy Mizsei Jr. by a 4th round TKO last June. Going from a fight against this guy to a bout against a young and tough Murray is going to be a very dangerous bout for the rusty Harrison to take.

The fight is also a risky one for Murray, because he’s lost his last two fights against Brandon Rios and Kevin Mitchell, losing both by knockouts last year in 2011. Another loss for Murray could sink his once promising career to the point where he’ll never be able to regain the footing that he had previously.

Harrison’s manager Alex Morrison told the “Everything is in place and all that Scott needs to do is sign the contract. He won’t get a better or a quicker chance to become a world champion again.”

Morrison is right. If Harrison can blow out Murray in an impressive fashion, he’ll be in a great position to get a title shot against WBO lightweight champion Burns in what would be a huge fight in Scotland, as both fighters come from there. At the very least, it would give Harrison a nice payday no matter what happens in that fight.

The Murray fight should give Harrison a good gauge of where his skills are at. If he struggles to beat Murray then it suggests that he may be in over his head in a fight against Burns.

By: William Mackay