Jorge Linares vs Anthony Crolla
Record: 41-3 (27 KO) ... Streak: W10 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8" / 69" ... Age: 31
Thoughts: One of the most skilled boxer-punchers in the sport when he’s at his best, Linares has settled into a familiar level at this point in his career. The 31-year-old Venezuelan once was thought to have pound-for-pound list potential, but that never quite panned out. Instead, he is just a very good pro boxer, rather than a great one.
But “very good” is still very good, make no mistake. He might be peaking at this point, having won his last 10 fights following back-to-back stoppage losses to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson in 2011-12, fights that seemed to indicate perhaps lightweight was a step too far for him. Instead, he’s become a two-time titleholder at the weight, never losing the WBC title he held from December 2014 through an October 2015 defense, and then claiming the WBA “world” title last September from Crolla, on the road in Manchester.
Linares isn’t the elite fighter his early prospects suggested, but he’s won titles at 126, 130, and 135, and he’s been a top fighter now for a decade, ever since he defeated Oscar Larios for the vacant WBC featherweight title in July 2007.
His advantages in this fight are clear, and they’re what won him the first meeting between the two. He’s a better boxer, more skilled, and when he can dictate the tempo of the fight, he’s simply too talented for Crolla. But Linares has problems, and those have been his downfall in his losses, also against fighters he was, frankly, too talented to lose to, as well.
At first, when he lost a shocker to Juan Carlos Salgado in 2009 (TKO-1), we thought maybe his chin wasn’t so great. But it’s not his chin. He’s proven he can take shots since then, and reality is probably just that Salgado flat out caught him cold and finished in 73 seconds. Linares’ big issue is with cuts. He’s got thin skin, and the blood seems to bother him. DeMarco’s stunning rally to stop Linares late wasn’t due so much to power getting to Linares as cuts getting to him. And even his TKO-2 loss to Sergio Thompson in March 2012 came due to a cut left eyelid. That’s his kryptonite. Otherwise, he’s a damn tough out for anyone.
Record: 31-5-3 (13 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 3-1-1 ... Last 10: 6-1-3 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'8½" / 67" ... Age: 30
Thoughts: The tough thing for Crolla with this rematch is he probably fought Linares about as well as he could the first time around. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine him, at 30, reaching yet another new level.
What gives him a chance are Linares’ deficiencies, namely the cuts. If Crolla can open Linares up and do some damage, he’s got a chance. He’s not a big puncher and can’t really outbox Linares, but Crolla is a scrapper, and will stay in a fight for as long as he’s on his feet.
It’s that determination that gives Crolla his best chance. Let’s also not count out that he’s once again at home, and while last time the judges went in Linares’ favor — and rightly so — you can never, ever discount home cooking in boxing, and not even just because judges are biased. Even with neutral judges, things like the crowd reactions and the atmosphere can get to a judge, depending on the judge. You just never really know, and if this goes to the cards, as it likely will, then who knows? Crolla will likely do enough to keep it at least in the ballpark, as he did the first time.
Matchup Grade: B-. It’s not a huge marquee event and it’s not a fight where we lack a clear favorite. Linares is and should be the favorite. Most rematches result in a repeat, not a revenge. That said, Crolla is a hard-nosed battler, and home field can’t be ignored. Linares has lost to fighters on this level three times in the past. It’s intriguing enough, and you should definitely tune in.
- Martin J. Ward (16-0-2, 8 KO) will defend the British super featherweight title against Maxi Hughes (16-2-2, 2 KO) in the third fight between the two domestic fighters. They fought to a draw in their first fight back in December 2014, and the rematch in April 2015 saw Ward stop Hughes after five rounds due to a nose injury. Hughes is 3-0 since then and has fought his way back to this spot, but it’s Ward with the career momentum. Grade: C+
- Veteran and former junior middleweight title challenger Brian Rose (29-4-1, 8 KO) will be back in action, taking on Jack Arnfield (23-2, 6 KO) in a 12-round middleweight contest, for a minor WBA trinket. Rose, 32, won his last fight, but just hasn’t been the same since he was decimated by Demetrius Andrade back in 2014. He’s gone 4-2 since then, losing to Carson Jones (a loss he did avenge) and Matthew Macklin. Arnfield is younger and fresher, but was sort of found out at domestic level in 2015 against Nick Blackwell, too. How this fight goes will depend on what Rose has left in the tank, I suspect. Grade: C
- Unbeaten middleweight prospect Marcus Morrison (14-0, 10 KO) will put his “0” up against veteran Jason Welborn (20-6, 7 KO), who has fought for British titles at 147 and 154. This is supposed to be a showcase for Morrison.
- Katie Taylor (3-0, 2 KO) will also be in action, taking on Bulgaria’s Milena Koleva (9-7-1, 3 KO) in what should be another fairly easy win for the Irish star.