MANCHESTER’S Anthony Crolla is in Los Angeles in the final days of preparation for the hardest fight of his life. While Crolla is a former world champion and still highly ranked in the lightweight ratings, he will be an overwhelming underdog when he challenges Vasyl Lomachenko on Friday (April 12) for the WBA and WBO titles at the Staples Center.

Crolla knows he can’t just plough forward heroically in an effort to destabilise a fighter as skilled as the Ukrainian. The Mancunian doesn’t just want to win plaudits for courage. He is determined to make an impression on Lomachenko. “Any idiot can brave, can’t they? I don’t want to go over there and people just say, ‘Oh he was brave,’” Crolla told Boxing News. “I’ve always wanted to test myself against the best and that’s certainly what he is. But again I don’t want that attitude where I’m looking to test myself.”

Crolla and his team believe Lomachenko has been shipping more punishment than usual in his recent fights with Jose Pedraza and Jorge Linares. “Lomachenko has been beat [in the distant past against Orlando Salido], he has been knocked down so you’ve got to believe,” his trainer Joe Gallagher said. “It’s a huge task but we’re not delusional.”

“We’re in this to win this,” he added. “We’re going there totally focused and trying to cause one of the biggest upsets.

“The main thing is the concentration in this fight for every second for every minute of every round.”

Most importantly Crolla will need to keep his composure. “What Lomachenko likes to do, he likes to humiliate you. He likes to embarrass you. He wants you to quit,” Gallagher warns. “We’ve had to put that scenario in practice in training camp that you can control them emotions, that he doesn’t get humiliated and then try and rush in and do something stupid.”

Vasyl Lomachenko

One of Crolla’s sparring partners has been Frankie Gavin. He tells us that Crolla is “100% fit, he’s strong, he can punch. So you know you’ve got to bring you’re A game to beat [Lomachenko]. If you cut corners anything can happen against him. There’s ‘never say quit’ in [Crolla] and he’ll keep going to the final bell.

“Just letting you know he’s going to be 100%, he’s going to be the best Anthony Crolla can be.”

Against Lomachenko on Friday, he’ll have to be.