Two and a half years ago Jorge Linares was on the verge of winning his third world title at consecutive weights. The Tokyo-based Venezuelan was comfortably ahead on all three scorecards against Antonio DeMarco after 10 rounds of their bout for the vacant WBC title. However, though he entered the penultimate round winning the battle, he was losing the war, as several lacerations on his face spewed blood forcing referee Raul Caiz Sr. to halt proceedings.
So close yet so far. With that in mind, it looked as though he may get a rematch only to lose his comeback fight, shockingly getting dropped in the second round before a cut eyelid saw him lose again – this time to Sergio Thompson.
It looked a long way back but after some soul searching, Linares said through Nobu Ikushima, of Teiken Promotions Inc.: “I went back to Venezuela and took lots of time to think things over and I am completely re-motivated and ready.”
Nicknamed “El Nino de Oro” for his extraordinary boxing skills, Linares won the vacant WBC featherweight title on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright in the summer of 2007, putting on a sublime exhibition against battle-hardened veteran Oscar Larios. Linares went on to make one successful defence before vacating, heading to junior lightweight where he picked up the WBA title vacated by one time gym mate and friend, Edwin Valero, before he was handed his first career loss – a stunning first-round stoppage by Juan Carlos Salgado.
Linares (35-3, 23 knockouts) seems to have been around forever yet only turned 28 last August. He has won four consecutive bouts since the Thompson setback, admittedly against moderate opposition. He’s currently ranked in the WBA (No. 2), WBC and WBO (No. 5).
This Saturday, Linares meets Nihito Arakawa, the rugged Japanese slugger famed for his war with Omar Figueroa Jr. last summer, in a WBC lightweight title eliminator.
The bumper bill at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is headlined by the return of Saul Alvarez against Alfredo Angulo. Also appearing will be Jermall Charlo challenging Carlos Molina for the IBF junior middleweight title and Leo Santa Cruz defending his WBC junior featherweight title against veteran Cristian Mijares.
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on Arakawa and what he brings to the fight?
Jorge Linares – He is a tough fighter, but I am more experienced than his last opponent. I'm not looking for a knockout but I will take it if it comes.
AW – Is the aim to fight Omar Figueroa if you are both successful on March 8?
JL – If that happens that would be great. But I have a very tough opponent before me so my focus now is to fight Arakawa.
AW – You lost back to back fights against Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson. You have been able to rebound with four wins since. How have you been able to mentally rebuild yourself?
JL – I went back to Venezuela and took lots of time to think things over and I am completely re-motivated and ready.
AW – How did you first become interested and then take up boxing?
JL – My father was a boxer and my older brother Nelson was an amateur boxer. So I remember growing up watching lots of boxing.
I had not travelled anywhere far from my home until I was 14 years old. Then things changed. I went to train and fight in Japan. Now I have been able to see so many places.
AW – You had a very good amateur career. Can you tell us about it?
JL – I had a great amateur career in Venezuela. Our team won three (national) titles. But I had no opponents to fight in Venezuela at the time so I had to look outside of Venezuela for boxing opportunities. My amateur record was 89-5.
AW – How did you come to move to Japan where you turned pro?
JL – Mr. (Gilberto) Mendoza (Vice President) of the WBA had introduced me to Mr. (Akihiko) Honda (President of Teiken Promotions) and helped me to join Teiken Boxing Gym.
AW – When you look at the lightweight division, what are your thoughts?
JL – All of the champions are great fighters. Some are young and strong like (Omar) Figueroa. Right now there are lots of good fighters in the lightweight and super lightweight divisions.
AW – Away from boxing what do you like to do with your time?
JL – As a sports fan, I like basketball and baseball. I also like to study athleticism and enjoy working on graphic designs.
AW – What are your goals in boxing still?
JL – I wanted to be an Olympian, but it is too late now. My goal for now is to once again become a world champion. Becoming a three-weight world champion is good but being a champion is more important for me.
AW – In closing do you have a message for Arakawa ahead of your title challenge?
JL – Let's put on a great fight together.