Anthony Crolla stops Ismael Barroso to retain WBA lightweight title

Anthony Crolla (right) ended Ismael Barroso's challenge with a fierce body shot in the seventh round in Manchester. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Anthony Crolla is doing a good impersonation of Ricky Hatton after winning his second successive fight with a body shot in front of a packed house at Manchester Arena.

Hatton, who won world titles at light-welterweight and welterweight, finished off many of his opponents with rib-bending body shots. Now Crolla (31-4-3, 13 KOs) is doing the same after stopping Ismael Barroso in the seventh round with a right to the body in a first defence of his WBA world lightweight title on Saturday.

It was an intelligent performance from Crolla, who was under fierce pressure in rounds three and four and then took control after Barroso had punched himself out.

With three world champions and one vacant belt, the lightweight division is open and without a dominant force.

Crolla will feel this win goes some way to establishing himself as No 1 in the division, but defeating one of his rival world champions will be help his argument more.

"It got my back up that people said I would lose," Crolla said. "My trainer Joe [Gallagher] got it bang on. He said he will try and bang me out in the first three rounds.

"I'm improving all the time and I think I've proved that i'm up there with any lightweight in the world. It was just a matter of not taking too many silly shots."

Crolla, 29, looked impressive in his two world title fights against Darleys Perez last year, when he stopped the Colombian with a body shot in November after a controversial draw last July.

And beating Barroso once again showed how far Crolla has improved since the days when he was beaten by domestic rivals like Derry Mathews and Gary Sykes.

The 33-year-old Barroso (19-0-2, 18 KOs) gave British fans a warning of how dangerous he was when he finished the career of Londoner Kevin Mitchell in December. With all but one of Barroso's victories coming via knockout, Crolla described his first challenger as the most avoided lightweight in the world in the build-up to the fight.

Barroso showed just how dangerous he can be by making a fast start. He threw an incredible amount of punches in rounds three and four, culminating in Crolla finishing the fourth with a cut by his right eye.

Crolla enjoyed some success with counter shots and caught the challenger with a sweet right uppercut in the fifth. Barroso's work then became untidy, his defence open and Crolla began landing more in the fifth.

The tide had turned and Crolla was firmly in control in the sixth when he landed two thudding rights that staggered Barroso. The challenger had slowed dramatically and at one point fell to the canvas in exhaustion.

After weathering Barroso's storm, Crolla completed a great performance by finishing off Barroso with a body shot in the seventh that even Hatton would have been proud of.