Will Jorge Linares finally live up to his potential?
By Hector Franco
This Saturday night the UK will once again have the boxing spotlight. WBC lightweight champion Jorge Linares (40-3, 27 KOs) will once again make the trip to take on WBA lightweight champion Anthony Crolla (31-4-3, 13 KOs). Linares last year fought in the UK in a fight of the year contender against Kevin Mitchell. This fight could be considered Linares’ biggest fight of his career. It gives him the opportunity to show fans that the hype that surrounded him as a prospect was warranted.
Linares in boxing circles has a reputation of being one of the best gym fighters in the sport. Similar to how James Toney and Shane Mosley were viewed. The way he looks in sparring and training gives the impression that he is one of the best fighters in the sport. Linares is also one of the few fighters in the sport that can claim to be a real WORLD champion. Linares has fought all over the world. Linares is signed to Teiken Promotions and thus most of his fights have taken place in Japan.
In 2009, Linares along with fellow Teiken stable mate and Venezuelan Edwin Valero were among the most highly-touted prospects in the sport. This changed when Linares faced Juan Carlos Salgado. Salgado stopped Linares in the first round exposing Linares biggest weakness, his chin. Much like Amir Khan, Linares has dazzling hand speed in the ring with a low punch resistance. Without this weakness, Linares may be undefeated to this day.
Linares was the WBA 130-pound champion when he faced Salgado and would get another shot at a title in 2011. On the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson PPV undercard, he faced Antonio Demarco for the WBC lightweight title. Linares showed off his hand speed and out boxed DeMarco through almost every round. However, a cut formed on the bridge of Linares’ nose along with cuts around both eyes that caused Linares to bleed profusely. DeMarco took advantage and forced the referee to stop the fight in the 11th round.
Things got worse for Linares in his next fight. He faced off against Sergio Thompson in Mexico in what was supposed to be a tune-up fight. Thompson didn’t get the memo. Much like the Juan Carlos Salgado fight, Linares was stopped once again but this time in the second round. This looked like the end of the road for Linares. A fighter with all the talent in the world who just couldn’t cut it in the pro ranks due to his chin and his skin being susceptible to cuts.
Linares didn’t listen to the critics and through the last four years has had a career resurgence. In 2014, against Javier Prieto in Tokyo, Japan, Linares won the WBC lightweight title. He has followed this with two successful title defenses each by stoppage. His opponent on Saturday night is also going into the ring with a knockout streak. Anthony Crolla in his last two fights had two impressive knockout victories over Darleys Perez and Ismael Barroso. Both fights took place at Manchester Arena where the fight with Linares will take place.
In many ways, Linares’ legacy is on the line Saturday night. He has always looked the part of a superstar even donning the nickname “El Nino de Oro” meaning Golden Boy in Spanish. It’s time for him to play the part inside the ring. With everything on the line, Linares has the chance to show the world the potential that so many see in him.
(Featured Photo: Bret "The Threat" Newton)