Anthony Crolla will be wearing the Manchester bee with pride on what promises to be an emotional night when he faces Ricky Burns this weekend.
Saturday’s all-British lightweight bout at Manchester Arena sees local boy Crolla return to action at the venue less than five months on from the terror attack there which killed 22 people. The 30-year-old, who has had eight of his last nine fights at the arena, will have the city’s worker bee displayed on his shorts.
It will also feature on his socks – the product of a collaboration between him and fightwear supplier Suzi Wong – pairs of which are being sold, with profits going towards supporting those affected by the May 22 tragedy.
Manchester’s famous bee emblem has been widely adopted as a symbol for the city’s togetherness following the attack.
Crolla told Press Association Sport on Thursday: “I’ll be very proud to be wearing the Manchester bee. It is going to be an emotional night for a lot of people, the first time back at the arena since that horrible night.
“There’s a lot of emotions involved, and I have to use it in the right way and make sure it lifts me. Whenever I fight at that arena, I feel like it gives me an advantage.
“People say once the bell goes it is just you and your opponent, which is true, and Ricky is well-travelled and experienced. But I do believe it gives me that extra gear.”
The contest has a distinct last-chance saloon feel to it for the two fighters in terms of potentially going on to compete for world titles again.
Both head into it on the back of defeats, with Crolla (31-6-3, 13 knockouts) having lost his last two fights, Jorge Linares claiming the WBA lightweight world title from him in September 2016 and winning their rematch in March.
The following month saw Scotland’s Burns (41-6-1, 14 KOs), who has held world titles in three weight divisions, lose the WBA light-welterweight crown to Julius Indongo. Former WBO lightweight world champion Burns is back fighting in this division for the first time since November 2015.
“I knew getting down to lightweight could have been hard, but I’ve been on the diet with no cheating and the weight’s just seemed to drop off,” the 34-year-old said ahead of what will be his maiden Manchester fight.
“I’ve done it comfortably this time – I have more or less been hovering around the weight limit for the last 10 days, and I’m still feeling good, talking to people, smiling.
“Tony (Sims, Burns’ trainer) knows when I put my mind to it I can do it, and I think he’s happy with the way I have done it this time. For other fights, my portion sizes have been too big and I would sneak chocolate bars, but we’ve cut all that out. All the preparation has gone to plan. I’m confident of getting the win.”