Crolla says ‘time to go now’ after slim victory

Former world lightweight champion Anthony Crolla was left relieved to end his career on a high note after he salvaged a majority decision win over Frank Urquiaga on Saturday at the Manchester Arena in England.

The judges scored it 95-95, 98-92 and 97-93 for Crolla, who improved in the second half of the 10-round bout to get the victory in front of his home city fans.

Crolla (35-7-3, 13 KOs), 32, didn’t live up to his “Million Dollar” nickname in his final outing, as he lacked appetite and was caught too often. Despite the win, he admitted afterward that he was retiring at the right time.

“I definitely thought I did enough, but it’s time to go now,” Crolla said. “I had a lot of nice messages, and it made me a bit emotional. I enjoyed the fight, but I knew that’s it now. I don’t want to be a stepping stone for other fighters.”

Urquiaga (13-2-1, 1 KO), 32, from Spain, came out aggressively and appeared to have the upper hand in the early rounds. He left Crolla with a cut above his left eye in the first and tore into Crolla again in the second, landing some big right hands to silence the home crowd.

Crolla showed improvement in the fourth round but continued to get caught coming forward.

He began to fight with more urgency in the fifth, when he landed a series of good body shots. Crolla came on strong again in the sixth and seventh, but the late rounds were close, and there was a nerve-jangling wait for the judges’ scorecards.

With the decision victory, Crolla closes a career that has taken some unlikely twists and turns since he made his professional debut 13 years ago. He appeared to be meandering along in mediocrity after four defeats and two draws in a span in which he won and lost the British title.

At that point, there was no hint that Crolla would go on to win a world title and fight the best in the world.

In fact, Crolla’s career looked finished in December 2014, when he suffered a fractured skull and a broken ankle after stopping a burglary at a neighbor’s house. Crolla was hospitalized, a world title shot had to be scrapped, and he was afraid that his boxing career was over.

For a while, his career was in the balance, but after he was given the all-clear to box again, Crolla landed a WBA world title fight against Darleys Perez, fighting him to a draw in July 2015. Crolla won the rematch by a fifth-round knockout in November 2015.

After stopping Ismael Barroso in 2016, Crolla performed admirably but lost on points to Jorge Linares in September 2016. He lost a rematch six months later.

But Crolla was not finished, and after three wins, he faced Vasiliy Lomachenko, whom many consider the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, for the WBA and WBO world titles in April. He was knocked out in four rounds.

One of the UK’s most popular boxers in recent years, Crolla approached the fight with Urquiaga insisting that it would be his last.

On the undercard, Felix Cash stopped English rival Jack Cullen (17-2, 8 Kos) in the eighth round of a thrilling Commonwealth middleweight title, forcing knockdowns in the first and seventh rounds. Cash (12-0, 8 KOs), 26, made a successful first defense nine months after winning the belt.

England’s Terri Harper (9-0, 5 KOs) celebrated her 23rd birthday by a unanimous (99-91, 99-92 and 97-93) points win over Viviane Obenauf (14-6, 7 KOs) to earn a shot at the WBC world title.

Promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed that he had already agreed to terms for Harper to challenge Eva Wahlstrom (22-1-2, 3 KOs) for the WBC world junior lightweight title early next year.