Anthony Crolla was almost pulled out after 11 rounds of his decision loss to Jorge Linares last night in Manchester.

The Venezuelan retained the WBA lightweight title he had won from Crolla last September on scores of 118-109 from all three judges.

Down in the seventh, Crolla was soundly beaten by a masterful Linares and his trainer, Joe Gallagher, tried to pull him out after the penultimate round.

“Joe wanted to pull me out and I pleaded to let me go on. No lie, I was alright. Joe was thinking that he [Linares] was in his rhythm and I needed the stoppage and it probably wasn’t going to come,” Crolla admitted after the fight.

“You ask any fighter, it’s not me being brave, no one would want to be stopped with a round to go and that’s all. In the 12th round I was never in danger of getting stopped. I’m really thankful Joe didn’t pull me out.”

Despite the brilliance of Linares, Crolla refused to fold in front of a raucous home crowd and fully deserved to hear the final bell to complete 24 consecutive rounds against the lightweight supremo.

Anthony Crolla vs Jorge Linares

He showed immense bravery to battle back in the eighth after hitting the deck but Linares moved into a higher gear and stamped his authority on the fight.

Linares thanked the Manchester crowd after the fight and credited Crolla with having “big balls.” He will now be ordered to box WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.

Crolla intends to take some time out before deciding on his next move.

“I’m going to have a little break with my family now. I’ll have to watch it back. I’ll be back but I’ll have a think, sit down, see what the next step is,” Crolla said.

“I believe there’ll be plenty of options, plenty of big fights for us and I want to be in those big fights. But I’ll go away now, rest up, I think I’ve had a pretty tough two years fight-wise.

“[Terry Flanagan] is certainly an option, there’ll be plenty of options. I’ve got no problem fighting any fighter in the division as long as it’s a good fight and makes sense.”

His promoter, Eddie Hearn, also floated the idea of Crolla moving to super-lightweight and challenging the victor of the April 15 world title unification clash between Ricky Burns and Julius Indongo.