Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Jorge Linares, after years of displaying dazzling talent, finally main events on HBO

Linares displays some of his many world titles, including the coveted Ring Magazine championship belt, following a victory. Photo by Lawrence Lustig

LAS VEGAS — These days, it’s hard to pin Jorge Linares down.

Is he in Tokyo? London? Las Vegas?

Linares owns homes in all three places, and he speaks three languages, too: Spanish (he’s a native of Venezuela), Japanese and English.

Linares (42-3, 27 knockouts) might be difficult to find, but it’s not hard to place him when he’s in the squared circle.

There, his talent is hard to miss. Linares dazzles with his lightning quick combinations. He flashes with his ability to nimbly avoid power shots and deliver his own counters.

His talent has been on display since his HBO debut in 2007 (in an undercard fight), a 10th-round stoppage of Oscar Larios to win a featherweight title.

Since that breakthrough performance, it’s been hard to find Linares if you’re an American fight fan. His next three fights took place outside the country, and far away from U.S. airwaves. Then came the shocking first-round stoppage defeat to Juan Carlos Salgado in 2009, and it was unclear if he’d ever be back.

He finally returned on American TV four years later with a 2011 title fight against Antonio DeMarco on HBO Pay-Per-View, but he lost after suffering several brutal gashes.

Linares attempted to bounce back but was knocked out in his next fight against Sergio Thompson.

Was he finished? Not quite yet. He reeled off a few wins in England, and in September claimed THE RING lightweight championship with a decision win over Anthony Crolla. He beat him again in the rematch six months later (on Showtime), and now finally, 10 years later, he’ll main event on HBO for the first time.

He’ll defend his RING 135-pound title against Luke Campbell, an Olympic gold medalist, Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

“This is my big opportunity,” Linares told “Now after this fight when I win, the big opportunities will come. So maybe Mikey Garcia or (Vasyl) Lomachenko or maybe I’ll go to 140 (pounds).”

But before he could get here, he needed to deal with the disappointment. Such heavy expectations were placed on him after he easily topped Larios, but he didn’t fulfill them.

It was a “bad moment in time” for Linares. He returned to Venezuela to ponder life, boxing and just where he was headed following the loss to Thompson.

“I thought about retiring,” Linares acknowledged. “But you know, at that time I had very good people around me. Everybody talk to me, ‘don’t lose your time, come back,’ and now I feel I’m in the best moment in my career.”

He eventually linked up with Las Vegas-based trainer Ismael Salas, who transformed his style over five years into the refined, athletic boxer you’ll see on Saturday.

Before, Linares said he would fight like an amatuer and bounced around too much in the ring, expending precious energy. Now, he stays on his feet with controlled balance; a more relaxed boxer.

A win over Campbell and the big fights will surely come. This is Linares’ time. And soon enough, if all goes well Saturday, you’ll be able to find him everytime he fights, right there on HBO.

Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger