Anthony Crolla interview: I'm realistic about my chances of winning another title, now is the time to retire

Tony Mogan
Crolla will have his retirement fight back in Manchester on 2 November: Getty Images

Anthony Crolla hopes to be the headline act in Manchester one last time in his retirement fight this November – and while he believes he can still challenge at the top level, he admits now is the right time to walk away.

Former WBA lightweight champion Crolla will be back at the Manchester Arena for one last dance on November 2 before bowing out of the sport he has dedicated his life to.

While his opponent is still to be decided, the 32-year-old promises it will be the last time we see him in the ring.

The proud Mancunian has celebrated the biggest moments of his career at the same venue.

It was where he beat Darleys Perez to win the world title in November 2015 - the biggest night of his career that came just a year on from suffering a fractured skull when he was struck with a concrete slab after chasing away burglars he had spotted leaving his neighbours' home.

Crolla successfully defended the belt in his hometown against Ismael Barroso in 2016 before coming up just short in two epic battles with Jorge Linares.

Crolla won the WBA title in 2015 after beating Darleys Perez Photo: Getty Images

Three wins on the spin catapulted him back into world title contention last April, but a KO defeat to the peerless Vasyl Lomachenko, widely regarded as the best fighter on the planet, left him with a difficult decision to make.

While he still has the hunger to continue, Crolla is brutally honest in assessing his chances of winning a second world title and concedes bowing out with his head held high this winter is the right choice.

“You have to get out of boxing at the right time and I think now is the right time,” Crolla told Standard Sport. “I believe I can still compete at a very good level for the next year or two.

"But I don’t want to be greedy. I’ve achieved everything I wanted to achieve in the sport.

“It’s not that my hunger has gone. But you have to be sensible and not let boxing take more from you than you take from boxing. Because boxing loves absolutely no one.”

Perhaps had there not been a fighter as dominant as Lomachenko on the scene, Crolla would have fought on.

The Ukrainian now holds three of the four belts in the lightweight division, adding the vacant WBC title to his collection with victory over Luke Campbell in August. A unification bout with IBF champion Richard Commey surely awaits.

“[Retirement] had been going through my mind the past 12 to 18 months," Crolla continued. "I knew I was coming to the latter part of my career.

"The aim was to work my way in, get another world title shot and hopefully win that and then retire. But then I ran into Vasyl Lomachenko.

“After that, I had to do a lot of thinking. I didn’t want to go out like that even though it was to an all-time great. I wanted to go out back in Manchester, where it all started.”

Crolla suffered a fourth-round knockout when he went face-to-face with Lomachenko Photo: Getty Images

Crucially, it has been thinking realistically, not emotionally, that has helped him to come to his decision.

“I got beat well [against Lomachenko] and while I still believe without a doubt I can beat some world-class fighters, while he has got the belts and while he’s not going anywhere anytime soon, I’m not going to get a world title.

“That’s not having a defeatist attitude, that’s just being a realist.”

Crolla must put emotion to one side again on November 2 when he fights on a card featuring another dominant lightweight in unified women’s champion Katie Taylor, who moves up to challenge super-lightweight title-holder Christina Linardatou.

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Confirmation of the November card this week appeared to place Taylor’s title fight at the top of the bill, but Crolla hopes to be the main attraction one more time.

“I’m pretty sure they’ll put us on and keep us until the end. It makes sense. That’s no disrespect to anyone but being in Manchester I’m pretty sure they’ll keep us until the end. I’ll find out very soon.”

With his career in the ring winding down, Crolla has been able to focus on the coaching side of the sport – something he hopes will make the transition a little easier for him – and insists he must remember to take his own advice when he steps out one last time in November.

“I can’t fight on emotions. I’m always telling the young kids in the gym, you can’t fight on emotion, you end up walking onto shots and walking away from your game plan. You are very rarely successful fighting on emotion.

“It’s got to be strictly business for me on the night. It will get emotional but I will wait until I’m in the changing room after it.”

Crolla leaves a lightweight division brimming with outstanding young talent with Teofimo Lopez and Devin Haney, aged just 22 and 20 respectively, already in the world title picture.

But such are Lomachenko's obscene skills levels, the former WBA champion believes the Ukrainian will not let his crown slip.

Crolla has taken up punditry with Ultimate Boxxer Photo: Charlie Henderson/ Ultimate Boxxer

"There are some still some great fights. I don't see anyone in the lightweight division beating him [Lomachenko]. But there are still some great fights to be made.

"Haney is one of the future superstars. I don’t believe he beats Loma but I think he's got a stronger case than anyone else in the division."

While keen to help the next generation of fighters, Crolla has also taken up punditry duty with Ultimate Boxxer, the hard-hitting tournament pitting emerging pros against each other for life-changing money and contracts.

A permanent role calling the action from outside the ring could be next for the former world champion when he does hang his gloves up.

“I love talking about boxing, it’s been a huge part of my life for 20 years so now having the chance to have the best seat in the house and it is something I’m enjoying.

“Ultimate Boxxer is guaranteed excitement. It’s rare the favourite wins it. It’s always exciting because you have lads who are absolutely going for it.”

Whatever is next for his career outside of the ring, Crolla is content to end his career inside it later this year having accomplished everything he set out to do.

"I can be satisfied with this. I've come into the sport and achieved what I wanted to achieve. And now I have to walk away at the right time."

Anthony Crolla is an ambassador & pundit for Ultimate Boxxer, live on BT Sport tonight from 8pm. For tickets www.ultimateboxxer.com

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