Venezuelan world champion Jorge Linares clashes with Britain’s Anthony ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla in a rematch for his WBA world title on March 25th at the Manchester Arena in England, UK.
Fight fans were treated to 12 rounds of high octane action when these two warriors collided for the first time as Linares ultimately proved too classy for Crolla and siezed his WBA world light weight title despite being pushed all the way to the final bell by the strong Manchester fighter.
Jorge Linares is the proverbial travelling man and has built up a wealth of experience since making his first professional appearance 15 years ago back in 2002. After predominantly starting out his professional career in Japan, Linares has also fought in his home country of Venezuela as well as Panama, Mexico, South Korea and numerous venues across the USA – not to mention of course Manchester in the UK in the first match against Crolla back in September of last year.
He has enjoyed soaking up knowledge from some of the best trainers in the sport such as Freddie Roach at the Wildcard gym in Los Angeles and he is currently under the stewardship of legendary Cuban trainer Ismael Salas at his Las Vegas gym. He was a fighter who in his ascent to world level was always talked about in high regard by the great late Emanuel Steward.
Believe it or not it was the first time Linares in all these years as a pro had went the full 12 round distance in the first fight against Crolla. It is probably testament to him being involved in exciting fan friendly fights.
After suffering back to back TKO defeats against the hard hitting Mexican champion Antonio Demarco and then Sergio Thompson back in 2011/12, Linares has bounced back with the heart of a champion and now at 31 years of age looks to be in his prime as fighter.
Although he is not a concussive puncher Linares carries hurtful power. He is a classy boxer who is naturally gifted with handspeed. For UK fans he has the sort of hand speed of an Amir Khan. One of the reasons boxing fans like watching him fight is that he has developed a great speed and variety to his attacking arsenal.
Linares likes to counter in rapid fire combinations and it means that he scores well with the judges. After each exchange he ensures his output is superior to his opponent.
He has the speed advantage over Crolla allowing him to be first with the jab and he mixes his lead hand up so well peppering off conventional jabs to the head and chest whilst also dipping down with ramrod jabs to the solar plexes.
He knows how to layer his shots and whips his body shots in so well with both his left and right hand. He invested to the body in the early rounds in the first fight to great effect. It aided him by helping to slow the superfit, physically strong Crolla in the closing rounds.
Additionally he found a lot of success with the right hand, left hook, right hand combination penetrating the tight high held guard of Crolla on multiple occasions as he pressured forwards.
Anthony Crolla is a fighter who has really taken his career to another level over the past few years. He has elevated himself to elite level after looking as though he may be a domestic level fighter when he was stopped by Derry Matthews back in 2012 in a bid for the British title.
He came back from a career and potentially life threatening injury when burglars smashed him over the head with a concrete slab in 2014. For him to come back so strong after suffering such a bad injury just shows you the strength of character and desire to be in the sport.
Between the ropes Crolla is a very game fighter who is constantly in your face. Crolla’s educated pressure was a good tactic in the first fight because despite his opponents classy work he was making Linares work extremely hard and expend a lot of energy early in the fight. He did this by closing the range, getting in Linares face constantly but didn’t commit to throwing too many punches.
He applied good spells of pressure in the first fight and he can take that away as a positive going into this second encounter but the key to victory this time round might lie in his ability to be able to cut off the ring more effectively.
Linares has developed very astute ringmanship. Every time his back touched the ropes he was off at an angle never letting Crolla tee off with what he was trying to set up as he marched forwards. If he can find a way to cut the ring more effectively and trap Jorge on the ropes he may have better success landing the overhand right and looping right hook that he had some joy in landing. It will also help him to drain the energy levels from Linares if he can exert his physicality up close on the ropes even when he is not throwing leather.
Crolla had some very good rounds in 6,7 and 8. Round 6 was a very good round for him as he sucked his opponent into a tear up and turned it into a phone booth shootout. However he was sent a reminder of his opponents power when he was rocked before the bell and made it back to the corner on unsteady legs. This is why he will have to be watertight with a high held guard again.
Linares excellent lateral movement makes him hard to catch clean often and although you would never describe him as having a weak chin he has been forced to touch down on the canvas by the likes of Kevin Mitchell. If Crolla can match his efforts in the first fight but finish the championship rounds a lot stronger and in the ascendency it might be enough to swing the pendulum back in his favour with the judges this time.
However it is still an extremely tough ask and will require a performance that is above and beyond what he has delivered before. Its tough not to edge towards another unanimous Linares victory in another competitive fight.
The lightweight division is red hot at the moment with quality champions all holding different versions of the belt. Mikey Garcia holds the WBA strap whilst Robert Easter Jr is the IBF champion. The winner of this fight will look forward to some potential blockbuster unifications.