Anthony Crolla and trainer Joe Gallagher came up with a risky plan for tonight's WBA title defense against Ismael Barroso, and they got it right. Crolla retained his 135-pound with a seventh round body shot knockout of Barroso, weathering the early storm from the power puncher before finishing off the tired opponent.
Crolla (31-4-3, 13 KO) doesn't have the knockout percentage of a big puncher, but this is his second straight win with a body shot, following his title victory over Darleys Perez in November, which ended in the fifth round.
Tonight, Crolla came out looking to test the stamina of Barroso (19-1-2, 18 KO), absorbing a lot of shots from the Venezuelan banger on his arms and gloves in the early rounds. We had Crolla giving up the first five rounds, in fact, as Barroso's work rate if nothing else gave him an edge, though the fifth was certainly closer, and saw Crolla do some decent work in return, as Barroso began to show some signs of fatigue.
In the sixth round, Crolla really turned up the heat, hurting Barroso a little bit, and then wearing him out over the latter half of the round. By the end of the frame, Barroso was clearly in trouble. It seemed a matter of time before Crolla found the shot to drop him, and that turned out to be fact.
Crolla dropped Barroso with a body shot a little less than halfway into the seventh round, and Barroso was simply spent, unable or unwilling to get back to his feet to continue the fight. The tactics from Crolla and Gallagher ran the risk of going one of two ways: either it would be a spectacular failure or a spectacular success. It was the latter, and really, you couldn't have drawn it up any more perfect than the way it went.
It's a big win, obviously, for Anthony Crolla, who retains his title with a knockout win over a guy who was felt to be very dangerous, even the favorite among many pundits and observers. Crolla showed not just his grit and toughness, but smarts and skills in this fight, and proved to be the better man.