Entertaining lightweight Anthony Crolla picked up a fringe version of the WBO belt in preparation for a possible shot at full champion Ricky Burns after a tight twelve round battle with former world title holder Gavin Rees at Bolton Arena.
The 26 year-old, who is rarely in a dull fight, went into the contest as a 7/2 underdog against the tough Welshman, but had no problems mixing it with the one-time WBA light-welterweight king for the duration of the bout.
‘Million Dollar’ Crolla used his superior stamina to keep the smaller Rees moving around the ring and set about picking him off as he came in swinging wildly at times and pushing the Manchester man against the ropes.
Rees, 33, looked as though his defeat to Adrien Broner earlier this year may have taken its toll, although ‘The Rock’ remains in the mix domestically with the likes of Derry Mathews and Kevin Mitchell as Crolla can look towards a possible November showdown with Scotland’s Burns.
After a tough war and a certain British Fight of the Year contender, the three judges at ringside carded scores of 115-113 (twice) and 115-115, with my card reading similar at 115-114 to eventual winner Crolla.
Earlier in the night, Paul Smith Jnr overcame Liverpool rival Tony Dodson in six rounds to recapture the British super-middleweight belt, whilst Scott Quigg made light work of Brazilian William Prado to score a stoppage victory on his Matchroom debut.
There were also wins for Brian Rose, Erick Ochieng and Thomas Stalker on a cracking night of action in the North-West, with trainer Joe Gallagher the big winner on the night as all of his fighters came away triumphant.