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25th Mar 2019

Ahead of trickiest test in boxing, Anthony Crolla recalls burglar attack which could have killed him

A concrete slab was smashed over Crolla's head in 2014 after he chased burglars from a neighbour's house

Darragh Murphy

A life-changing experience

Anthony Crolla will get the opportunity to share the ring with arguably the greatest boxer on the planet next month.

But anyone who thinks Crolla will be fazed by the prospect of facing Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBA, WBO and The Ring lightweight titles ought to think first about what the Brit has come through to reach this point.

A veteran of 43 professional fights, Crolla has seen and done it all in boxing but upsetting the odds by overturning Lomachenko in Los Angeles would undoubtedly be the highlight of a storied career, which almost ended prematurely in 2014.

In fact, it wasn’t just Crolla’s career which came close to being cut short because the Manchester-born fighter was lucky to escape with his life after being cracked over the head with a concrete slab five years ago.

Crolla was preparing for his first shot at a world title and had just returned from training when he noticed that a neighbour’s alarm was going off.

After joking about checking whether or not someone was in his neighbour’s house, Crolla found himself in a chase with a couple of burglars before the fateful clash which resulted in a fractured skull and broken ankle.

On the latest episode of TKO, Crolla recalled the night in great detail and while he ended up lifting the WBA lightweight title less than a year later, he can consider himself very, very lucky indeed to have survived.

“I took chase and as I got around the corner, there was two of them,” Crolla said.

“Joe [Gallagher] had just given me the night off running because I was ahead of schedule and I thought there was no way they were getting away from me. So I’m talking to them and they must have thought I was a mad man because I was shouting at them, ‘I’m going to catch you and I’m going to catch you now. You’re not going to get away from me so you might as well stop’.

“They were trying but I was closing distance and closing distance. Anyway, they turned down by a house and garden and I’ve cornered them in.

“There was two of them so I couldn’t get both. I’m not the biggest guy. So I said to one of them, ‘you can go but the other one is coming with me’.

“As I’d let him go, I said something like, ‘what have you taken?’ and then on the blindside, a concrete slab came down and hit me on the head. I remember going down on one knee and I didn’t know at the time that it was a slab but I thought straight away that he’s just put a slab or a brick over my head.

“I wasn’t knocked out or anything like that. I jumped up because I saw the other one climbing the fence. I tried to grab him but he was already halfway over and I was raging that they got away but I couldn’t put any weight on my ankle.

“I’m hopping back home because I couldn’t put any weight on my ankle but I just thought I twisted it, the way I’d gone over on it.

“One of the neighbours saw me and asked what happened so I just told her that they just put something over my head but I didn’t know what. Obviously the blood is pouring.

“I go into my house and my tiny little boy was one then. I’m covered in blood but I’m just trying to have a joke with him. Luckily, he didn’t understand at that point.

“The ambulance was taking a bit of time to come but luckily the next door neighbour’s mum worked for the ambulance and she told me I needed to get to hospital because the bleeding wasn’t stopping.

“At this time, I’m talking rubbish. One of my mates had actually come around to pick tickets up for the fight and I was just thinking that I wouldn’t be able to run that week and was thinking that the head guard would cover the cut. I thought I’d swim that week and was actually planning training around my head.

“I was talking like a madman and nobody had the heart to tell me that there was no way I was going to be fighting.

“The ambulance was taking ages so my uncle got me to hospital. I went into A&E and I was telling them what was going on. They said they’d take me in the back and clean me up. My head was cut wide open and I couldn’t walk.

“They were asking me if I was fighting soon and I said, ‘yeah, I’m fighting next month.’ And they were all saying, ‘oh, that’ll be sound’.

“The next thing, I’m having a scan and thinking that this is a bit of carry-on. Then I remember doctor coming in to talk to us and he said, ‘oh you’re a boxer, aren’t you?’ and I said, ‘yeah, I’m boxing next month’. And he just said, ‘that won’t be happening, you’ve got a fractured skull and your ankle is broken in a few places’.

“I was heartbroken. That was it. Bit of bad luck.”

Depending what way you look at it, it was indeed bad luck for Crolla but the fact that he survived such a brutal attack means he is certainly more fortunate than others might have been.

Crolla fights Lomachenko on April 12 in LA’s Staples Centre and he is under no illusions about the challenge that lies ahead.

But if anyone can upset the odds, it’s ‘Million Dolla’ Crolla.