Boxing

Anthony Crolla never gave up hope of winning world title

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Anthony Crolla insists he never gave up hope of capturing the WBA world lightweight title after a fifth-round knockout of Darleys Perez.

Less than 12 months on from sustaining a fractured skull and a broken ankle while attempting to foil a burglary, Crolla claimed a world title at the second attempt, after his first bout with Perez in June was controversially ruled a draw.

Crolla made sure the judges were not needed this time, however, as a stunning left to the body doubled up his Colombian opponent, who was counted out at the Manchester Arena to spark jubilant scenes.

An emotional Crolla told Sky Sports News HQ: "Honestly, I always believed I would get back here and I made a promise when I was in my hospital bed that I would come back bigger and stronger and I believe that's what I have done.

"You must never stop believing and if you never give up and you work hard then it pays off.

"With my injuries, the fractured skull was my main concern and getting over that. I had to tweak training a little bit because I had a broken ankle and there was a mental thing about getting back in there and getting punched with small gloves, but I think having my team around me has really helped.

"And like in any sport, you can be as fit as you like but if you're not right mentally it doesn't count for a lot so I just had to make sure I was mentally very strong and that's what I have done."

Crolla, often referred to as 'the nice guy of boxing', will now turn his attentions to an even bigger bout - potentially at Manchester United's Old Trafford.

The lifelong United fan was inundated with congratulatory tweets from Red Devils players past and present in the aftermath of his thrilling victory over Perez, and the 29-year-old admits he still has to pinch himself.

"It means the world to us and it's a bit crazy that a few of the players have tweeted us; Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, Gary and Phil Neville," he added.

"It's a bit mad really that the players I have watched week in week out for years have taken the time out to watch the fight.

"I don't think it's quite sunk in but it's an amazing feeling. It's a dream come true. I'm just looking forward to it all sinking in and realising the achievement."

While Crolla was left celebrating, British compatriot Martin Murray once again came up short in his bid to win a world title after a split decision loss to WBO super-middleweight champion Arthur Abraham.

While the St Helens fighter, who had failed in his three previous middleweight world title tilts, was given the nod 115-112 on one of the cards, the other two judges scored the fight 115-112 and 116-111 in Abraham's favour in Hannover.

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