When Scott Quigg and Anthony Crolla climb through the ropes inside an electric Manchester Arena on Saturday night, neither boxer could be accused of taking a softly, softly approach.
Gratefully accepting crossroads fights that have the potential to take each of them to the next level, both men are returning from serious injuries – without the comfort of a warm-up bout – to face the toughest opponent of their career so far.
As the title of the show suggests, a precarious evening lies ahead. Everything will be laid on the line in front of a raucous home crowd.
Back from hand surgery, Quigg’s fifth defence of his WBA Super Bantamweight crown, against the durable and dangerous Spaniard Kiko Martinez, should be a belter.
The 29-year-old challenger always provides value for money. A brave, hard-as-nails, front foot scrapper, La Sensacion will pile forward and hope to trade blows in an all-out war, for a strap that will make him a two-time world champion.
He won’t lack fight or hunger.
The unbeaten Bury star is technically superior, but that doesn’t mean he’ll jab and run. Shying away from the confrontation isn’t his way. Prepared to stand toe-to-toe with anyone, Quigg is likely to back his fast jab, powerful combinations and notoriously jarring body shots to give him the upper hand up close.
Lacking speedy foot movement, he will take some blows (he often has in his stiffest tests) but as he proved when coming from behind to draw with Yoandris Salinas in 2013, Quigg is a gritty customer that’s prepared to patiently wear his man down if that’s what it takes.
A victory is all that matters for the meticulously prepared Matchroom Sport star, but the manner of his potential success will also provide a handy gauge of where he is compared to IBF belt holder Carl Frampton.
The much-vaunted Northern Irishman stopped Martinez in the 9th round to become European champion in February 2013 – and last September he took the world crown off of the same fighter when landing a wide points victory in Belfast.
In both contests Frampton had to ride a storm, but his power and counter –punching skillset made him a worthy winner each time. With the prospect of a mouthwatering all-British unification clash between the pair on the horizon, Quigg would love to see off the Spaniard even more convincingly.
The Manchester Arena has been a happy hunting ground.
In four contests at the venue, the local boy has seen off each opponent inside six rounds. It might take longer to dispose of the fearless Martinez, but eventually I do envisage a win.
With Frampton and a host of other big names lined up as future opponents, Quigg has no option but to rise to this test.
For the hugely likeable Anthony Crolla, Saturday represents a new and exciting challenge at world level; one that just seven months ago he feared he would never experience.
The 28-year-old’s heroism when trying to apprehend two burglars that broke into his neighbour’s home just before Christmas is now well documented, but having been hit over the head by a concrete block that fractured his skull and broke his ankle, it’s in many ways miraculous that Crolla is 100 per fit and ready to challenge for the WBA Lightweight belt.
Some will say that no matter what happens on Saturday night, he’s a winner already.
The ‘Million Dollar’ man’s opponent, Darleys Perez, has never fought in Europe and will make his first defence of a strap that was handed to him by the WBA when Crolla’s original opponent, Richar Abril, was stripped of his title for inactivity.
Having won three interim title contests in the space of six months against opponents of some repute, the Colombian (32-1-0) is a fighter that still warrants his status as a champion. Perez can bang, but it’s his reputation as a skillful ring operator that marks him out as one of the best in the division.
Last time out Perez comfortably outpointed Jonathan Maicelo with a smooth and controlled display, picking his shots cleverly over 12 fairly one-sided rounds. Boasting a significant reach advantage over Crolla, he will look to do the same, and dampen the passionate atmosphere inside the Manchester Arena.
Crolla is one of the UK’s most improved boxers, and for sheers guts and bravery alone he deserves a crack at the world title, BUT this is a major step up for the local hero.
Backed by a vociferous support and fuelled by desire, he has a genuine shot at glory, but the popular 28-year-old is still venturing into the unknown. I see him as the underdog.
Can Crolla cut it at elite level?
If he can, the roof will come off, just as it did a decade ago when Ricky Hatton stunned Kostya Tszyu inside the same ring.
Manchester fight fans love a people’s champion. On Saturday night they could even have two.
For more info on this incredible night out, check out Matchroom Boxing. If you can’t make it to the MEN Arena this weekend, the fight will be showcased in all our local casinos, so get on down so you don’t miss your night of High Stakes entertainment!
Photo credits – Matchroom
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