Britain lost another of its decreasing slew of ‘world’ champions on Saturday night when Jorge Linares relieved Anthony Crolla of the WBA lightweight strap in a spirited affair at the Manchester Arena.
Gutsy and steadfast throughout, Crolla survived a few rocky moments , most notably at the end of round 5, to collect the short end of a unanimous decision. Predictably, and in spite of the Venezuelan’s relative mastery, two of the scoring judges had it unreasonably close with cards of 115-114 and 115-113 but Panama’s Guillermo Perez Pineda saw it 117-111 which seemed more reflective.
Numerous fair-minded neutrals expressed fears on social media that Linares might get robbed if the fight went the distance and even the flimsiest of cases could be made for the home fighter but the occasion was mercifully unmarred by incompetence or skullduggery.
Scoring is highly subjective, as we are constantly reminded but if Crolla wasn’t exactly given a boxing lesson then he was at least present at a seminar.
The essential difference on Saturday night was what fight fans like to call ‘levels’. Linares, in staking his claim to be the world’s premier 135 pounder, had a bit too much of everything for Crolla’s honest craft and one-dimensional pressure.
It would be churlish to criticise Joe Gallagher unduly but the oft cited accusation that he tends to produce a conveyor belt of come forward fighters who rely on conditioning, work rate and a high guard while generally being devoid of flair and versatility has a skein of truth in it.
The defending champion seldom took a backward step throughout the 12 pounds but Linares’ ability to box while going backwards and his fluid combination punching proved the perfect antidote to Crolla’s unwavering aggression.
Pre fight optimism for the eminently likeable Mancunian focussed on the challenger’s recent inactivity, Jorge having lain dormant for almost a year prior to the first bell on Saturday night.
Others pointed to the three stoppage losses on his otherwise impressive record and hinted at a certain fragility.
Even the odds makers bought into it with Crolla being installed as an 8/15 favourite but on the night an appreciable class gap rendered the numbers academic. Far from being on the slide, Linares reinforced his claim to be one of the top dozen active fighters in the world today. A consummate, elite professional who paced himself perfectly despite the suggestion that the champion might outlast him in a war of attrition similar to the manner of Crolla’s victory over Ismael Barroso.
For the sake of balance, it must be stressed that Anthony had his moments and many of the rounds were bitterly contested but that doesn’t mean that the Venezuelan maestro didn’t win a clear majority of those rounds. Unfortunately whenever a fighter goes forward relentlessly he will always convince somebody that he is actually wining a fight and licensed judges are certainly not immune from this perception.
Nonetheless, both parties seem keen on an encore in the new year with Eddie Hearn saying” There’s a rematch clause. It’s the biggest fight for Linares. I don’t envisage any problems
Because Anthony put up such a good fight the 12-13,000 that were in the Manchester Arena for the first fight will increase next time. …The money will be big and Linares will think he can win again.
For his own part, Crolla vowed to make the necessary adjustments,”I’d love a rematch but I’d have to come back better in order to win. But sharing a ring with a great fighter like Jorge can only benefit me. I’ll be smarter than I was this time.”
Forgive me if I’m not immediately convinced that a rematch is entirely justified or will prove to be more lucrative but if anyone wants to bet on Crolla next time then I will take that wager right now.