Gold Standard From Linares
Jorge “Golden Boy” Linares delivered a sublime performance at the Manchester Arena last night to decisively see off the challenge of Anthony “Million Dollar” Crolla in their WBA lightweight title rematch.
The venue was packed with fans hoping the local man could give them a famous night but the visitor from Venezuela was in no mood to give up his title. Linares was a class above Crolla in all aspects of boxing. The champion held all the aces in the speed, power, defence, footwork and ring generalship categories thus making it a difficult night under the lights for Crolla. The three judges all returned scores of 118-109, an accurate reflection of Linares’ dominance.
The fight began and Linares demonstrated his class from the beginning. It could have been round thirteen of their first clash as Jorge had his timing bang on right from the off. Crolla opened proceedings looking to go to the body but it was Linares who was able to score the better punches, often landing on Crolla’s body as the Englishman left himself vulnerable while on the attack. In what must have been alarming viewing for Crolla’s army of fans Linares was already controlling the distance and in the second frame he began to establish his jab, mixing it up well to head and body. Could Crolla find anything to change the flow of the fight in the early running?
The answer was no. The early rounds continued with Crolla trying to close the distance and pressure his classy opponent but in each session Linares found new ways to discourage him. In round three “Golden Boy” fired an early warning of what was to come by landing a couple of flush uppercuts off both wings. Round four saw the champion frustrate Crolla even more by avoiding his attacks using great head movement and employing his superior footwork to counter from all angles.
The fifth and sixth stanzas saw Linares put his foot on the gas to fully highlight his dominance. Impressive variety in attacking the head and body saw him control this period of the fight and by the half-way point it looked like Crolla was in danger of being stopped or shutout on the scorecards.
Round seven produced the only knockdown of the fight. Crolla, becoming more aggressive, briefly had Linares in range and looked to land a sweeping right hand. The wily Venezuelan ducked the trouble and in the same smooth movement hammered Crolla’s chin with a huge counter left uppercut. Just magnificent. Crolla got to his feet and battled through to the end of the round.
Baring some kind of supernatural intervention Linares was now out of sight. Crolla needed a knockout. To his credit he came out on the offensive and actually had his best rounds in the eighth and ninth, winning them both on my unofficial scorecard. Normal service was resumed for the closing part of the fight with Linares, back to controlling the distance, jabbing and countering when required as he coasted through to the final bell.
The main takeaway from the fight was Linares underlining the fact that he is a notch above Crolla in all departments. Once again a rematch was won more emphatically by the better boxer. “Million Dollar” showed great heart and determination as he kept trying to land something that would change the outcome of the fight but on the night it wasn’t to be. He gave 100% effort as he scrapped till the very end.
All who were in attendance can say they were on hand to witness one of the best performances from a visiting boxer to these shores for quite some time. Linares gave a boxing masterclass and was a delight to watch. Tantalisingly it now appears that next up for Jorge will be a unification fight with WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia. The gifted Garcia is the real deal and would go into the clash with Linares favoured to win. Both men are excellent technical boxers who are highly competent in all areas of the sweet science. It really is a mouthwatering prospect for boxing fans and hopefully we get to see it this year.
Now 31, Linares looks like he is truly at his peak. He defended his jeweled belt against a game challenger in convincing fashion last night and now moves forward to meet the very different test that Mikey will present him with. He moves forward looking for more gold.