By Ian S Palmer
Hometown hero Anthony Crolla will be trying to take back his WBA Lightweight Championship from Jorge Linares of Venezuela in their rematch this Saturday, March 25th. The 12-round bout will be held at the Manchester Arena in England, the same site as their first fight, and can be seen live in the U.S. on Showtime. Fans in the UK can catch the action on Sky Sports 1. Linares won their first meeting last September with an entertaining and hard-earned unanimous decision by scores of 115-114, 115-113, and 117-111.
The 30-year-old Crolla will enter the ring with a record of 31-5-3 along with 12 Kos while the 31-year-old Linares is 41-3 with 27 Kos under his belt. Crolla resumed his career after suffering a fractured skull and broken ankle in an attack a couple of years ago. The boxer heard a commotion in his neighbour’s yard and decided to intervene when it looked like the neighbour was about to be robbed. Since then he’s fought Darleys Perez of Colombia twice with a draw and a win via fifth-round stoppage, then beat Ismael Barroso.
Crolla captured the WBA Lightweight crown in the second meeting with Perez and lost it to Linares last year. The Englishman stands just over 5-feet-8-inches tall and has a 67-inch reach. He turned pro back in 2006 and has gone 239 rounds since then, but doesn’t possess much in the way of power with a current knockout ratio of just 33 per cent. Crolla’s other four losses have been against domestic opponents. He drew with Derry Mathews and was beaten by Youssef Al Hamidi and lost twice to Gary Sykes.
In addition, Mathews stopped him in the sixth round back in 2012. However, he’s also fought some decent British opponents such as Andy Morris, John Watson, Willie Limond, Gavin Rees and John Murray. Crolla has fought extremely well since his injuries and has looked world class in his encounters with Linares and Perez. He’s improved greatly over the past couple of years and more than held his own against Linares in their close first fight.
The 31-year-old Linares has a plenty of experience, skill and speed and is a former featherweight, super featherweight and WBC lightweight world champion. He won the vacant WBC belt back in December, 2014 by stopping Javier Prieto in the fourth round in Tokyo, Japan, where Linares now calls his home. However, the WBC stripped the title from Linares in February of 2016 after he suffered hand injury and wasn’t able to defend the title. They then named him WBC Diamond Champion for what it’s worth.
Linares’ three losses have been against Juan Salgado in 2009, Antonio DeMarco in 2011 and Sergio Thompson in 2012. Those defeats revealed a questionable chin since all three men stopped him. Linares’ biggest wins have been over Crolla, Jesus Chavez, Oscar Larios, Nihito Arakawa and Rocky Juarez. The Venezuelan Linares stands 5-feet-8-inches tall with a 69-inch reach and has fought 256 rounds since turning pro in 2002. He carries a 61 per cent knockout ratio around with him.
He definitely has more power than Crolla, but didn’t really hurt him in their first meeting. Crolla needs to use his mobility and slick combinations against Linares since he doesn’t really have the power to slug it out with him and will definitely have the crowd behind him. However, since Crolla lacks power, Linares was able to control the first fight with quick, accurate punches and fine footwork. Crolla was the betting favourite heading into the first fight and Linares is rightfully the favourite this time around.
Linares has more experience against tougher opponents, but is a little older than Crolla. He’s also been stopped in all three of his losses, but Crolla isn’t known as a knockout puncher. Crolla’s biggest asset is his heart and determination and he’s surprised a few people by winning and defending a world title. Crolla should have gained some confidence in the first meeting as he was in against a better boxer with more power. Linares’ is the better all-round boxer here though, and unless this bout is going to be used to set up a trilogy, Linares should retain his title by win or draw.