Britain’s Anthony Crolla failed in his bid to win the WBA lightweight title after Colombia’s Darleys Perez retained his title with a controversial draw.
The Mancunian, who suffered a cracked skull and broke his ankle when he was attacked by thieves seven months ago, matched Perez throughout.
Crolla, 28, appeared to have won the bout after Perez twice had points deducted for low blows.
Judges scored the fight 116-111 for Crolla, 114-113 for Perez, and 113-113.
The champion extended his fine record to just one loss in 34 fights, while Crolla – who has 29 wins in 36 professional contests – recorded a third draw of his career.
“I’m bitterly disappointed I’ve not got the world title take to home with me. I thought the deductions swayed it for me,” an upset Crolla told Sky Sports afterwards.
“I had to dig deep and do the crowd proud. I will only come back stronger.
“When this opportunity came I was never going to give it up. But I promise everyone that I will win the world title.”
Following a WBA super-bantamweight title win for Bury’s Scott Quigg’s over Kiko Martinez, the Manchester Arena raucously welcomed Crolla, who has completed a remarkable recovery from the attack by burglars at his neighbour’s house in December.
And after Perez – who has an exceptional life story himself – made a fast start, Crolla showed no rustiness.
The local favourite rocked his 31-year-old opponent in the second round with a right hand, and although Perez continued at a frenetic pace, Crolla matched his work-rate.
The Colombian, who resisted the call to join paramilitaries in his civil war-affected homeland, landed plenty of shots but did not upset the home fighter’s rhythm.
And when the reigning champion landed the second of his low blows in the 11th round, it looked likely to hand Crolla victory. Two of the judges felt differently, however.
Crolla’s trainer Joe Gallagher, who also coaches Quigg, added: “I thought Anthony had won it by two rounds. I’m very proud of him. The people of Manchester that came out to support him were fantastic.
“But it is a bit disappointing and it has put a dampener on the evening. I should have had two world champions this evening.”
Reaction to Crolla’s controversial draw
Former world light-welterweight champion Amir Khan: What a joke! @ant_crolla won that for me, absolutely gutted! Amazing performance nevertheless.
Former middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe: Great effort by @ant_crolla deserved the win!!
Ex-England cricket captain Michael Vaughan: At least in our game we can review bad decisions… Shocking judges scores… @ant_crolla should be World Champ… #Hero
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