Jorge Linares masterful in points win over Anthony Crolla
MANCHESTER, England – Under normal circumstances British lightweight Anthony Crolla excels in rematches but taking on three-weight world titleholder Jorge Linares is anything but normal.
On Saturday, the brilliant Venezuelan improved on his first performance, flooring the Englishman on route to a sparkling 12-round unanimous decision. Linares regained THE RING and WBA lightweight titles and confirmed his overwhelming superiority before 14,000 hostile fans at the Manchester Arena.
All three judges scored the bout 118-109, a tally that was identical to this reporter’s card at ringside.
“Anthony and I are warriors and we put on a great fight for you,” said Linares in his post-fight interview. “I can tell everyone here that Anthony Crolla has some big balls and that’s why he made it through 12 rounds with me.
“I want to fight in the States now and I want the biggest names; the best fighters.”
The crowd were in uproar during pre-fight pageantry and the atmosphere was electric in an arena that has played host to the likes of Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and Mike Tyson. Over the last several years it has been home to Crolla, an immensely popular local favorite and the crowd stood as one for the home fighter.
There was nothing in Round 1. A nifty left hook to the body from Crolla was the only worthwhile shot in what was a reconnaissance session.
Linares, however, displayed some of the artistry that caused the Englishman so much trouble in their first fight as early as Round 2. The visitor’s hand speed was blurring and rapier single shots and one-twos kept Crolla at bay. A new wrinkle, the perfect left uppercut, also pierced Crolla’s guard regularly in the early sessions.
Crolla, as promised, began layering his performance in the middle rounds. He punched in threes and fours but Linares was frustratingly elusive and avoided the worst of it. The champion’s feet were superb and he threaded home beautiful counters. The right uppercut was now causing damage and Crolla was cut around the left eye as the bell rang to end the sixth.
The challenger was doing well in Round 7 and, seemingly, Linares sensed it. Predictably another perfect left uppercut burst through the guard and Crolla went down on a delayed reaction. He did very well to survive and displayed the hallmark bravery and grit that took him to a world title.
There was no quit in Crolla but the harder he tried, the more counter opportunities were there for Linares to exploit. Crolla would have a modicum of success and Linares would put him back in the box with quick jabs and two-fisted bursts. The uppercut continued to be a nightmare in the championship rounds.
The fight came to a quiet conclusion as Linares fenced his way to victory. His dominance clear for all to see.
Crolla’s story has been positively inspiring but it would be remiss to ignore the hardships Linares has faced. Hand injuries and boxing politics have kept the 31-year-old technician woefully inactive over the last three years but, despite a punishing career, he has looked dazzling in back-to-back away assignments against Crolla.
Has Crolla reached the end? One would doubt it. The Manchester man may have overachieved in the eyes of some but he is a great athlete and a real fighting man. The lightweight division is replete with challenges, including a local derby with WBO titleholder Terry Flanagan. Don’t be surprised to see Crolla back in a big fight this year.
Both fighters weighed in at 134.4 pounds. Linares improves to (42-3, 27 knockouts) and Crolla falls to (31-6-3, 13 KOs).
Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel.? Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing