Saturday, April 01, 2023  |


Jorge Linares hopes Mikey Garcia fight will remove doubts

Fighters Network

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Jorge Linares rotated his right hand inside a blue bucket crammed with ice, dipping the finely tuned extremity in and out.

About an hour earlier, that right hand — along with his boxing acumen and tremendous athleticism — helped him turn away the stern challenge of Luke Campbell at The Forum. Now, Linares sat in a locker-room at The Forum and attempted to reduce the swelling associated with pounding his fist into someone’s face for 36 minutes.

Soon, he was greeted by a second visitor, and this one came bearing a gift. It was HBO Sports head honcho Peter Nelson, who clasped his hands around Linares’ and congratulated the 32-year-old veteran following the victory in his HBO headlining debut. “I love watching you fight,” Nelson said. And he made sure Linares would never forget this special night.

He handed the Venezuela native a white sleeve with a clear face with the date scribbled on the disc commemorating his fight. Linares (43-3, 27 knockouts) can celebrate his re-entrance into the American television market any time he wishes now, but he’s hopeful this isn’t the summit.

Not after all the times he was counted out as a bust. After all the occasions Linares was touted as a fighter with immense potential who would never reach it.

He’s battled depression following consecutive stoppage losses in 2011-’12. That’s in the past, though. Linares climbed out of that pit, reinvented himself, and is once again flashing the hand speed and combination punching that had observers drooling over him 10 years ago when he made his American TV debut on an HBO pay-per-view undercard.

There’s one fight that can prove, once and for all, that Linares is the kind of talent he displayed that July 2007 night. He knows it.

“My goal was to come back to the American market and kind of steal the show and jump back in. This fight was meant to catapult me and set the stage for (the Mikey Garcia) fight,” Linares, shirtless in black sweat pants, told through a translator. “It might get complicated with the promoters, though, because Mikey Garcia loves money.

“He’s willing to go up to 150 (pounds) to make a mega fight (with Miguel Cotto). If he’s willing to go up to 150, that just shows the character of Mikey Garcia. … If we can work something out, it would be a very different fight than the one with Luke Campbell.”

The 2012 Olympic gold medalist pushed Linares to the brink and gave THE RING lightweight champion fits with his boxing ability and southpaw style. Garcia is a far more highly regarded fighter than Campbell, but he presents a much different style.

THE RING’s No. 1-rated 135-pounder is a skilled counter-puncher who packs fight-ending power in both fists. He demonstrated as much with a highlight-reel knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin in January, then THE RING’s No. 1 lightweight.

Garcia proved his pound-for-pound status with a climb to 140 pounds and a one-sided decision over Adrien Broner in July. The 29-year-old Californian indeed wants a crack at Cotto in the legend’s grand finale in December, but it could be David Lemieux who gets the future hall of famer.

Either way, Linares is back fighting in the United States where he belongs, and soon, he might have an opportunity to prove that at 32, he’s just hitting his stride.

“It’s kind of my dream fight,” Linares said of Garcia. “I’d be fighting one of the best pound-for-pound fighters. I’d be honored to be on that list.”


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