In an era where many name fighters are boxing sporadically, activity is a simple way to stand out. This is the credo Lewis Crocker is choosing to live by, as he climbs through the ropes for the second time in two months on Saturday night. The Ulster Hall in Belfast will play host to a match-up with the experienced and ambitious Jose Felix Jr.
The Mexican is no stranger to fighting on Irish soil. Nor is it the first time he has clashed with an unbeaten fighter from the Emerald Isle. Felix travelled to Dublin last time out, ending the 16-fight unbeaten run of Gary Cully in just three brutal rounds. It was some statement and now Felix heads to the north to exact a similar fate on Crocker.
He won’t find it easy. Crocker is proving to be one of the fastest-rising stars in Irish boxing. Last time out, ‘The Croc’ made what was supposed to be a bitterly-contested grudge match with Tyrone McKenna look easy. ‘The Battle of Belfast’ captured imaginations in the build-up, but such was Crocker’s dominance that McKenna actually retired from the sport in the aftermath. It was a banner night for a star you’d suggest is on the verge of breaking out.
That fight is the closest Crocker has come to a truly defining night so far. The biggest name on his CV is probably former world title challenger Joel Julio, who he stopped with a body shot two rounds into a six-session outing last April. But the 39-year-old has lost 15 fights in a row, settling uneasily into a post-fame career as a fading journeyman.
A win over Felix would buy Crocker some real cred beyond the domestic scene. The Mexican has been in with the likes of former world title challenger Isaac Cruz and Sandor Martin, the man who shocked the world in 2022 when he beat Mikey Garcia. Felix is also a former WBA interim championship challenger. This is a fighter who has mixed at world level, even if he has fallen short against the best.
The prevailing theme of this fight is a veteran fighter with his best days behind him meeting a rising star who you feel has greater days ahead. They used to call these “crossroads fights” at one time. Felix is only 31, young enough to come again and with 46 fights of valuable experience in the bank. He doesn’t quite fit the old-stager narrative of a typical crossroads clash. But given his trajectory compared to the unbeaten but relatively-untested Crocker, the moniker makes sense.
So how does this one play out? A look at common opponents can often be instructive. While Crocker dominated almost every round against McKenna, he did not have him on the canvas. Felix did, when the pair contested the WBO intercontinental title in 2021. But unlike Crocker, the 31-year-old couldn’t maintain his success. McKenna, who had dropped Felix in the first round, won a fairly one-sided decision despite the knockdown.
While Crocker’s 10 knockouts from 18 wins doesn’t scream one-punch power, he has been finding the finish more recently. ‘The Croc’ has taken out four of his last seven opponents. The McKenna fight is the only match in that run where Crocker didn’t at least secure a knockdown. Meanwhile, Felix has been stopped twice in his six defeats, including a third-round blitzing at the hands of Cruz.
Crocker will have to wait a little longer. But I can see the Irishman securing a late stoppage in this WBO intercontinental welterweight title affair. His improved punching power, peaking skills and home advantage coupled with Felix’s inconsistency and susceptibility should see Crocker home and hosed in round nine or 10. You can get odds of 8/1 on Crocker doing exactly that. If you’d prefer to exert a little more caution, Crocker to get the knockout at any point is priced at 4/7.
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