(From left to right: Derry Mathews, promoter Eddie Hearn, Anthony Crolla)
Anthony Crolla makes his first competitive start this weekend since the night he almost killed Heywood rival Kieran Farrell. In a suffocating December brawl, the 22-year-old Farrell developed an acute subdural haematoma that threatened his life. He survived but not without consequence. Farrell lost almost a third of his brain, his career and a pitiless dream. The effect on Crolla has yet to be measured. Rarely, though, are the winners of such catastrophes able to proceed unaltered.
Former featherweight world champion Barry McGuigan confessed to pulling his punches against Jimmy Duncan after previous foe Young Ali (Asymin Mustapha) fell into a coma and later died in 1982. A tormented Chris Eubank was similarly affected against Thulani Malinga after Michael Watson only narrowly evaded death in their titanic rematch. Junior lightweight world titlist Gabriel Ruelas claimed to have been haunted by the ghost of Jimmy Garcia when he re-entered the fray against Azumah Nelson. Ruelas had dealt the 23-year old Colombian Garcia a prolonged beating seven months prior from which he would never recover. The boxers that left the ring under their own volition were subsequently crippled with guilt and regret. It is a familiar story.
In 1994, Liverpool’s Richie Wenton turned his back on Neil Swain in the middle of an exchange, spat out his mouthpiece and wept -- so tortured was he over his involvement in the death of Londoner Bradley Stone. “Every second of every minute of every round, I was thinking about Bradley,” he said afterwards. There have been countless more examples. Mbulelo Botile didn’t win another fight after injuring Paul Ingle. Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini was never the same boxer after the death of Duk Koo Kim. Emile Griffith after Benny Paret. Ezzard Charles after Sam Baroudi. Training to deliver unyielding punishment upon an opponent without ever intending to hurt them became a mystifying paradox too pronounced to ignore.
To compound the psychological quandary that confronts Crolla, the man that opposes him at Liverpool’s Echo Arena is Derry Mathews, who stopped the New Moston man on his feet in Britain’s most torrid encounter of last year. The pair will contest the vacant Commonwealth title at lightweight Saturday. Both are former British champions.no comments