Updated: Friday, 19th July 2019 @ 2:43pm

'I couldn't be prouder': Boxer who sparred with Anthony Crolla's dad backs champ in first world title defence

'I couldn't be prouder': Boxer who sparred with Anthony Crolla's dad backs champ in first world title defence

| By Tom Avery

‘World-class’ Anthony Crolla will beat Ismael Barroso by targeting his body, according to an old sparring partner of the Mancunian world champion’s dad.

Crolla crowned one of the most remarkable stories in modern boxing by securing the WBA Lightweight belt in November against Darleys Perez, rounding off a year that started with him hospitalised after a confrontation with crooks.

The 29-year-old from Moston has acquired colossal support in his rise to the top, and will defend his title for the first time in front a fervent home crowd on Saturday 7 at Manchester Arena.

Russ Arrowsmith – who trained alongside Wayne Crolla, himself a pro boxer, with 16 wins in 28 bouts – will be among those hoping for another Hollywood moment in Crolla’s career.

“I couldn’t be prouder of his achievements,” he told MM.

“I still believe there is a lot more to see, he is a very, very special fighter and I said that to his father.

“For me he is world class.”

Russ never made the leap to professional boxing himself, but he has stayed involved in the sport, taking part in White Collar fights to raise money for charity over the last six years.

And while he said there was ‘absolutely no chance’ that he would be tempted to share a ring with the younger Crolla like he once did with his father, he backed him to knock out his opponent on Saturday by targeting his ‘soft’ belly.

“It will be a tough fight,” he admitted.

“[Barroso] is a strong fighter, I’ve studied him and weighed him up, but I think Anthony has got the beating on him, he looks a bit soft round the belly.

“Hopefully a text book body shot from Anthony will put him away.”

Even if Crolla does win, there won’t be time for him to rest before he leads his ‘Crolla’s Army’ in the Great Manchester Run on May 22.

Russ is one of those to have been chosen to join forces with the champion in the charity fundraising running team – four decades after he helped prep his father prepare for fights.

He told MM that he is looking forward to the run, and with his training in full flow he believes that his intense training and running background will see him produce a good result.

“When I left school all I wanted to do was box and a big part of the boxing training would include regular 10km runs,” he said.

“When I finished boxing competitively I needed something to do and running was my passion and over time it has just been a natural progression.

“I can’t wait for the run, I’m getting personal bests on my park runs.

“After every marathon I told myself never again but the following year came around and I thought I love that atmosphere I’m going to do another.

“I wouldn’t have any toe nails left once I completed the marathon.

“It really was a case of putting your body through the ringer.”

On Saturday 7, Russ will be hoping that it is Ismael Barroso who’s body feels like he’s ran a marathon, and not the fighting pride of Manchester.