Crolla rallies to force draw
Derry Mathews and Anthony Crolla were unable to claim the vacant Commonwealth lightweight title as they fought to a 12-round draw in Liverpool.
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Mathews stopped his opponent over six thrilling rounds in April last year to become British champion, a bout widely acclaimed as the domestic bout of 2012.
Crolla was understandably wary of his opponent's power on this occasion but closed up the gap on the scorecards during the championship rounds.
Judge Marcus McDonnell favoured Mathews (32 wins, 8 defeats, two draws) by 115-113, with Ian John-Lewis plumping for Crolla (25-4-1) by the same margin and Steve Gray calling the fight 114-114.
Perhaps inevitably given the explosive nature of their first encounter, the opening rounds took on a tentative feel with Crolla boxing largely on the backfoot behind a tight guard.
Hometown favourite Mathews enjoyed control of the centre of the ring, while Crolla landed a couple of crisp uppercuts despite showing evidence of damage around the right eye at the end of round two.
Crolla's tactics appeared to be to take the fight long, bringing Mathews' questionable stamina into play but it was debatable whether he was doing enough to claim the requisite points for the strategy.
The Mancunian settled into a pleasing rhythm behind the left lead in six , only for Mathews to thud home a firm jab of his own and open up the eye damage.
As in the first fight, Crolla became disorganised when cut and Mathews started to find success with his favoured right uppercut.
Having enjoyed his most fruitful three minutes for some time, Crolla felt his legs buckle midway through round nine.
As Mathews went in pursuit of the finish he shipped some quality left hooks in return and the fervour of the pair's first meeting was tangible once more.
Crolla boxed beautifully throughout 10 and 11, seemingly unable to miss with the overhand right and resisting the urge to go head-hunting as he peppered Mathews' body with hook.
Mathews, bleeding from the nose and mouth, was reduced to a diet of attempted single big shots by the final stanza and had to absorb head shot from either wing by his more fluent opponent.
After the contest, both men stated their ambition to complete a trilogy.