Underdog Anthony Crolla has vowed to “shock the world” on Friday night when he fights Vasyl Lomachenko, the three-weight world champion and double Olympic gold medallist.
Bob Arum, the veteran promoter, said on Thursday that watching Lomachenko in the ring was equivalent to “watching Picasso at work on a painting”. That is some compliment from a legend who has worked with Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao and Marvin Hagler.
Crolla, the former world champion who challenges for both the World Boxing Organisation and World Boxing Association lightweight belts held by Lomachenko, has committed his all to preparation, both physical and mental.
“I’m going to shock the world,” he said. “Victory would be the pinnacle of my career and then some. I think we’ll see a bit of everything in the fight.
“I am prepared to leave everything in the ring. Beating him would be one of the biggest upsets of all time. He’s a unique fighter and I’ve had to change up sparring to spar with different guys to cover everything he can throw at me.”
Should the Mancunian triumph, it “would be up there with the great performances by Brits abroad”, according to Amir Khan – who fights Terence Crawford, another rising Arum-promoted star, in New York next week as an underdog – but the Bolton welterweight believes Crolla should target the smaller man’s body.
“It’s important Crolla gets to the body to slow him down,” Khan said. “Lomachenko is very smart. He’s going to have to be very smart in there. Anthony’s got a good body shot and his last couple of wins have come from body shots. Let’s hope he can do that.
Arum, the Top Rank chairman, is calling the contest “a very good and interesting fight” but barely disguises what he believes will happen with his comment that “any Loma fight is worth watching. It’s the equivalent of watching Picasso do a painting. He’s like an artist at work in the ring. His skill is something that’s unique. It’s something that we won’t see again for many years.”
Lomachenko said: “I saw Crolla’s fights with [Jorge] Linares. He has a very defensive style. I will find the key to his defence. I have to be aggressive and throw a lot of punches. I want to win and I don’t like to lose. That is my motivation. I always think about the fans and putting on a show in the ring.”
Weird things can happen in boxing but Arum’s promotional rival Don King’s infamous words resonate over this contest. Crolla has two chances in this fight: slim and none. And slim just left town.
Khan, though, believes an underdog should never be written off. He told The Daily Telegraph: “Crolla has been around as long as I have in the professional ranks. He’s fought the biggest names and tried hard. He’s not a fighter that shies away from any challenge. I see that in him, I respect that. He is going to be in a very hard fight. I think he believes in himself, which is half the battle, and he can do it. I really believe he’s got a chance. As long as he roughs him up, he’s got the strength, speed and movement.”
Khan added: “His experience is key, he’s been a professional for a long time. But look, it’s what happens on the night. If he’s switched on, he can do it. But you’ve got to remember, Lomachenko is an amazing fighter. You don’t win Olympic gold medals easily and this guy won two. Also, he’s a numerous world champion as a pro. It’s going to be a hard task, but you never know in boxing.”
I see Lomachenko forcing a stoppage about the sixth or seventh round, from a barrage of shots, ending with attacks to the body of the Briton.