You don’t need to be into boxing to like Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla.
I don’t know much about the sport, but when I went to interview him prior to a photo session and a Q&A with his fans at the Bierkeller on Saturday, I was impressed by his ability to both look confident and be humble at the same time.
The former British and World lightweight champion had his first amateur fight at eleven. He remembers going to the Manchester Arena and watching Naseem Hamed and Ricky Hatton and dreaming that one day he would perform on that same stage.
After a challenging journey and nearly twenty years of hard work, Crolla says he feels he’s one of the very lucky minority of people who get to live their dream.
“Winning on that stage (at the Manchester Arena) was so special to me. It doesn’t get any better than people cheering your name in your hometown. I felt like the luckiest man in the world that night.”
Following the well documented injury that almost ended his career a few years ago, Crolla had screws in his ankle which came loose earlier this year after a long flight to Thailand. Now he’s fully recovered from his operation to remove the screws and is back in the gym, hoping to have his next big fight in the autumn.
What got you started in this field of work?
My dad was an ex-professional boxer so from an early age I was taken to the gym because there was no one to mind me and you just end up picking up the basics.
Who have been your biggest influences?
There’s a tie between my amateur coach Jimmy Lewis and my current professional coach, Joe Gallagher. Early in my career a lot of people had given up on me. I’ve never thought I’ll reach anywhere near the heights that I have and he (Lewis) has always believed in me. 82 years old and he’s still in with the kids three nights a week. He’s been doing it for 50 years or something. Great, great man.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Two: one being a dad. I’ve got a little boy who’s four-and-a-half years old. He’s a little terror. Then, obviously, winning that world title here in Manchester.
What does your typical day involve?
Up early, school run, then it’s breakfast, strong coffee, to the gym, a little bit of food, gym again and then at the night it’s usually a yoga session or a swim, so it’s like three sessions a day. It’s hectic. And I spend a lot of time in traffic and on the motorway as well.
How do you relax on your days off?
It’s not rock’n’roll. It’s either a coffee shop or I’ll go and watch United if they’re playing.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Everyone loves a winner so the best advice was to look who’s in the changing rooms when you lose a fight rather than who’s in the changing rooms when you win a fight.
If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?
I think I would’ve stayed involved in sports somehow, whether it would’ve been some kind of personal trainer or something. Other than that, my aim now, for when I finish boxing, is to work with disadvantaged kids in the area. Where I’m from there are a lot so I’d like to work with them and help keep them out of trouble hopefully.
Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear?
I’m a sucker for reality TV. I was more excited for Love Island than I am for the World Cup. My apologies for this.
Red or Blue?
Name your three favourite things about Manchester
One, the people – friendliest people in the world. Two, Manchester Arena, which has been so special to me, I had many big nights there. Three, it’s got to be Old Trafford.
If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?
The drugs and homelessness are big problems at the minute. It’s really sad. I’m sometimes in town early in the morning training and I see the amount of people sleeping rough. We also know that Spice is a terrible problem in our city and it’s so sad to see. That’s what I wish I could change.
What do you love most about Manchester?
It’s greatness. I’m a proud Mancunian and you saw how great our city was just after that terrible night at the Arena, I’m just proud to be a Manc and I think it’s the best city in the world. Hand on heart, best city in the world.