“If you feel good, if you’re feeling good, put one hand in the air…”
Those are the lyrics of Whitney Houston’s hit ‘Million Dollar Bill’ track.
And Anthony Crolla, the man who uses the tune as the soundtrack to his fight nights, will be hoping to have not one but two hands held aloft on Saturday night when he steps through the ropes for the final time.
“I’ve sat here in the upper tiers as a young lad and have to pinch myself sometimes,” Crolla, who will make the walk inside the Manchester Arena for the last time against Frank Urquiaga, says. “I enjoy the pressure because there is so many other fighters who would love to be in the position of headlining at the Arena, this place means so much to me.”
Crolla is hoping the Spanish-based Peruvian opponent, who he faces for the vacant WBA Continental lightweight title, will be a fitting last dance partner in a career that has had numerous ups and downs and is set to end where it started 13 years ago.
“I remember on my debut I was the live float, I was 19 and it was the dream. I ended up boxing in front of about 300 people that I’d sold tickets to and I will always remember it, it was a dream come true.”
The real dream came true at the venue back in September 2015 when ‘Million Dollar’ –– in a rematch –– knocked out Darleys Perez with an iconic left hook to the body in the fifth round.
What followed was a devastating knockout of his mandatory, Ismael Barroso, on a card called ‘Danger Zone’, before a pair of losses against Venezuela’s Jorge Linares.
“The ring walk is one of my favourite things about being a fighter and the reception that they give me in Manchester every time I walk out is amazing,” he added ahead of what could be the 35th and closing win of his career which has also seen him win English and British titles, as well as boxing in Las Vegas, having two domestic dust-ups with Liverpool’s Derry Mathews and even taking on Ukrainian superstar Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“I will miss walking out in this Arena, no matter what event I come to see at the Arena, all I see is a boxing ring in the middle of it.”
Onto the fight.
Urquiaga made his debut just five months before Crolla won the world title and has boxed outside of his Spanish base just once, losing to Edis Tatli for the European title in Finland in August last year.
He is 13-1-1 with one quick finish and was last in action in February when he faced Ivan Tomas for the vacant Spanish lightweight title and boxed to a split draw.
“I don’t know much about Urquiaga,” says the 32-year-old, “but I know that he is capable, he lost on points when he fought for the European title but I believe I should be beating him. That’s what I will do, I will go out on a massive high and enjoy this last dance.
“I have never avoided anyone throughout my career and I’m going to have to be on it to get the win.”
The plan for Crolla, when the gloves are left in the middle of the ring, is to continue his education as a trainer and running his own amateur club Fox ABC.
“I know that this will be the last time that I make this ring walk but I can’t get emotional, I can in the hotel after the fight but on my way to the ring I’ve got to keep my head together and enjoy it.
“I want to get out of boxing while I have taken more from boxing than boxing has taken from me and now I believe is that time.”