Jorge Linares decisions Anthony Crolla, looks towards Mikey Garcia

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.

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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.

Santa Cruz defeats Frampton, Garcia wins WBC title

The rematch wasn’t the fight of the year candidate that their July 2016 bout was but Leo Santa Cruz avenged his only career loss and regained the WBA featherweight title from undefeated Carl Frampton earlier today with a majority decision victory. On the undercard, Mikey Garcia scored an early candidate for knockout of the year with a 3rd round knockout over previously unbeaten WBC lightweight title holder Dejan Zlaticanin.
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Santa Cruz MD12 Frampton
The fight wasn’t the classic that last years bout was but Santa Cruz boxed a much smarter bout to reclaim his title. Working behind a left jab that wasn’t used much in the first meeting, Santa Cruz didn’t allow Frampton to dictate the pace as he did last July. This resulted in a slower fight but Santa Cruz utilised his 7″ reach advantage and was able to score with jabs and long right hands which showed signs of swelling the Irishmen’s left eye early in the contest.

Frampton battled back in the third round and was able to have success when he caught Santa Cruz on the ropes. Both men exchanged heavily at times during the contest with Santa Cruz throwing more punches but Frampton landing the harder blows. The bout was fairly even through rounds three to five with Frampton effectively forcing the action. Santa Cruz landed six or seven hard left rips to the body in the sixth round, one of which seemed to momentarily take the wind out of Frampton. The defending champion Frampton though came back in the seventh round with his best round of the fight.

Round eight was nip and tuck but Santa Cruz pulled away in the later rounds, landing frequently with long right hands while Frampton had no answer how to get inside on the taller man. Santa Cruz’ long jab made Frampton forget his own, a weapon that he used effectively in his victories last year over Scott Quigg and Santa Cruz and despite good head movement, Santa Cruz’ was scoring as the shorter man came inside. Frampton fought desperately in the twelfth round but it was too little too late. Judge Burt Clements somehow came out with an even scorecard but was overruled by Dave Moretti and Glen Feldman’s 115-113 cards. I scored the bout 116-112 for Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz rejoins Garry Russell jnr, Lee Selby and Oscar Valdez as one of the title holders in the division however a third fight is likely before any unification fights take place with the WBA title at stake. Abner Mares, whom Santa Cruz defeated in 2015, is also in the mix with the WBA regular title. Russell is considered by many, including myself, as the top fighter in the division based on his victory over Jhonny Gonzalez who defeated Mares. Santa Cruz is now number two for me with Frampton close behind in third then Selby then mares then Valdez. If any combination of these six men fight each other it should make for excellent viewing.

Garcia KO3 Zlatincanin
Mikey Garcia won his third title in as many weight classes with a huge third round KO over Dejan Zlaticanin for the WBC title that Dejan won in June last year. It was the first defence of the title that was stripped from Jorge Linares for unifying with Anthony Crolla, a bout that Linares won. Dejan never looked in Garcia’s class and was controlled by a stiff jab throughout the first two rounds.

Garcia opened up in the third and landed with an overhand right and a left rip midway through the round. Dejan attempted to come in low and walked into an uppercut that landed flush and a grazing left hook from the former WBO featherweight and junior lightweight champion. Dejan was hurt and wile he regained his balance Garcia landed a right hand as hardly thrown and as flush as he probably could have landed and Zlaticanin was out before he hit the floor.

Dejan seemed fine after being administered oxygen by the ringside doctors and both Garcia and his trainer Robert Garcia showed excellent sportsmanship by checking on him. Garcia claims his third title in as many weight classes however he is yet to clean out a division and I would love to see him in with Linares for lightweight supremacy. A bout wit Terry Flanagan would also be excellent. In my opinion Garcia needs to stay at lightweight and clean out the division if he wants to be mentioned in the pound for pound stakes however there is already talk of him moving up by the years end.

I would love to see Garcia face Lomachenko should Vasyl move up to the lightweight limit and personally I think Garcia wins that contest but I can see Garcia moving up, likely fighting Ricky Burns or whoever is the weaker out of the junior welterweight champions at the time. Boxing needs more of the top guys fighting each other rather than everyone chasing as many paper titles in as many divisions as they can. Garcia is a three division title holder now however Henry Armstrong would be turning in his grave every time someone mentioned this as an achievement.

Other Results
In a fight that wasn’t televised on Australian TV, Francisco Vargas lost his WBC junior lightweight title and perhaps a chance to meet Lomachenko in a decent money fight with an (apparently) one sided eleventh round TKO loss to Mexican Miguel Berchelt. There will be a report on this site if I’m able to see the fight in the next few days. Takashi Miura scored a 12th round knockout over Mickey Roman on the undercard in what was apparently a rival to DeGale-Jack for fight of the month/year.