World lightweight champion Jorge Linares (42-3, 27 KOs) defended his status as the world’s premier lightweight with a clear unanimous decision over Anthony Crolla (31-6-3, 13 KOs) earlier this morning in Manchester. The fight was a rematch of a clash last September where Linares again won via unanimous decision, although that was a much closer affair. Linares left no doubt as to who the better man was today, dropping Crolla in the seventh and thoroughly out-boxing the former WBA title holder, winning by scores of 118-109 on all three cards.
Early on it appeared as though the bout could be another close fight with Crolla applying pressure and attempting to cut the ring off and Linares using fast feet and lots of feints to keep the Manchurian at bay while scoring with explosive combinations on the inside. Linares did the better work in the opening round but the harder punches came from Crolla, mainly with a hard left hook to the body midway through the round. It was the last success Crolla would have for a while.
Rounds two through five saw Linares dictating the pace and landing with hard two handed assaults to the body all the while evading Crolla with fast feet and not allowing him to get set to throw many punches. The times when Crolla closed the distance Linares scored to the body and with uppercuts and moved away. Linares also controlled the distance with a hard left jab, something that he didn’t use much of during the first encounter and this seemed to be the difference in the bout. In round six Linares controlled the distance and pace once more but also stunned Crolla with a right hand.
The seventh was Linares’ best round of the fight. He dropped Crolla with a left uppercut and looked like he could finish his man off but Crolla gamely saw his way through the round. Round eight, however, was Crolla’s best round of the fight. He attacked the Venezuelan born three weight division title holder along the ropes and landed his best shots of the contest. Crolla continued to rally in a much closer ninth round but Linares regained control in the tenth and punished Crolla in the eleventh.
Crolla’s trainer Joe Gallagher wanted to stop the bout before the 12th round and referee Howard Foster examined Crolla but they both allowed Crolla to finish on his feet. While the twelfth was a clear Linares round, Crolla finished strong and no one can criticise his heart. In the end Linares was the clear winner and he had a case for winning every round (I scored it 119-108). Even in round 8 (the only round I scored for Crolla) Linares landed his fair share of hard punches.
Linares will likely meet Mikey Garcia in an attempt to win back his WBC title that he won in 2014 and never lost in the ring. Linares is the premier lightweight in the world based off his victories over Crolla and while Terry Flanagan and Rances Barthelemy also hold titles, both won vacant titles over men who weren’t legitimate contenders. The Linares-Crolla bouts were the first involving two of the best lightweights against one another since Terence Crawford, the last Ring lightweight champion, stopped Yuri Gamboa in 2014. Garcia, until he defeats Linares, is a paper champion at this weight and while I would make him the favourite in a bout between these two, if he wants to be in the pound for pound mix he needs to fight Linares.