Anthony Crolla outpointed Ricky Burns in their lightweight showdown at the Manchester Arena on Saturday.
The hometown favourite outworked Scotland’s Burns over 12 gruelling and close rounds, eventually taking the verdict via scores of 116-113, 116-114 and 117-112.
Both fighters started the fight tentatively, Burns, 34, bringing his lengthy jab into play as Crolla tried to work his way onto the inside, each finding success with wide left hooks in an even opener.
In the second, Crolla started to find his rhythm, applying the pressure and finding success at close quarters with some digging shots to the body.
The steady assault to the body continued as ‘Million Dollar’ cleverly worked around the ring, slipping shots well and firing home counters through the Scotsman’s guard.
The work-rate from the Mancunian was proving to be a decisive factor as he increased the tempo in the next period, again repeatedly targeting the midriff area, slowly pushing further ahead on the scorecards.
‘Rickster’ tried to reassert his accurate jab as the contest reached its mid-rounds, but still the momentum was with Crolla, who unleashed a flurry of left and right hooks to the body to stay in control.
Realising he needed to find another gear and quickly, the Scotsman came out for the seventh with more intent, landing a stinging uppercut, before a jolting shot bloodied the nose of the Mancunian.
Crolla, 30, perhaps tiring following his fast start, started to slow slightly as Burns’ foothold in the contest was only getting firmer, both lightweights taking turns to spin the other on the ropes and fire away.
The ninth was then Burns’ best round of the fight, the home fighter looking weary and breathing heavily as the Glasgow man unloaded after a stiff jab landed flush.
‘Million Dollar’ though soon found a second wind and upped the urgency in the tenth as he again sent home flurries of punches, while Burns found some success with heavy single shots.
Crolla came out for the penultimate round intent on making sure the result would be in no doubt, a huge uppercut rocking the Scot, before he again returned his attack to the body.
With the Manchester crowd roaring him on, the 30-year-old marched forward in the last, a lead straight left sending Burns slightly off balance before the final bell went and the two embraced.
Speaking after the fight, Crolla said: “I thought I had done enough, but Ricky kept on coming, he gave me a very tough fight.
Anthony Crolla edged a close decision win against Ricky Burns and he said he would be up for a rematch in Glasgow.
“I owe these people here in Manchester another world title. I’ve also got no problem in going to Glasgow for a rematch.”
Burns added: “I thought I done enough to edge it. I would love to do it again.”