A few years ago, Venezuela's Jorge Linares was considered one of the most promising young fighters in boxing. Blessed with speed, power, and uncanny overall boxing ability, he won a featherweight world title in 2007, beating veteran Oscar Larios, and in 2008, claimed a paper title at 130 pounds, too.
In 2009, trouble showed up. Juan Carlos Salgado, a lightly regarded underdog from Mexico, stopped Linares in just 1:13 in Tokyo, and Linares, now 28, has been scrapping to meet his potential ever since.
Two more stoppage losses followed, one to Antonio DeMarco in 2011, and another in his next fight against Sergio Thompson in 2012. Against DeMarco, Linares had boxed beautifully and dominated the fight for the first 10 rounds, before DeMarco turned up the heat, busted him up, and got him out in the 11th. Thompson put him away in just two rounds.
On Saturday night, Linares (36-3, 23 KO) faces Ira Terry on Showtime Extreme, part of the Brook-Porter card at the StubHub Center. Terry, 27, is just 2-9 in his last 11 fights, stopped early in seven of those losses. The Tennessee club fighter represents no real challenge for Linares on paper, as Jorge has feasted upon this level of competition for most of his pro career, shrinking instead against more legitimate foes.
"I always think positively, you have to jump in the ring thinking like a winner," Linares said when asked if he felt he had a distinct advantage in this fight. "I trust my training, my trainer and my corner. We don't have any negativity at all. We feel good and prepared."
And though the fight is not against a contender, Linares says he's focused on getting back to that world title level, starting here.
"It's obligatory; I have to win on Saturday, without a doubt," he said. "There's no thinking about losing, I have to get a good win this week and then we'll look for that world title. Winning that world title is the only thing present on my mind."
Linares will surely be able to get through Ira Terry without much trouble. It could be a quick night, and he may look sensational. But will Linares ever meet the potential he was thought to have early in his career? Is he running on borrowed time as a relevant fighter?