Saturday, September 24, 2016

By Paul J Daley

Three division world champion Jorge Linares (41-3, 27 KOs) came into the lions den on Saturday night and left with a unanimous decision victory over WBA lightweight champion Anthony Crolla (31-5-3, 13 KOs) in Manchester, England, winning on the judges scorecards by 115-114, 117-111, 115-113.

Linares started the better of the two, landing with sharp, accurate shots but Crolla never one to shy away from a challenge employed a pressure tactic that at times worked well with the Venezuelan looking tired. Crolla drew blood from Linares in the fifth who was further hindered by an injured right hand as the Manchester crowd rose the octaves in appreciation of the effort of the hometown fighter.

Linares moved quickly through the gears in the sixth before unloading the best punch of the contest in a brilliant right hand that rocked Crolla who barely made it through the round as he walked back to his corner on noticeably unsteady legs.

Close rounds ensued thereafter but when it mattered most, the talent of Linares once more rose to the surface, taking the championship rounds landing crisp, eye catching shots to finish the stronger which ultimately won him the contest.

Afterwards both men thanked the other for a brilliantly engaging contest with a rematch a real possibility for the near future.

First of all I want to tell the people of Manchester thank you so much" said Linares "Anthony once told me that he was a fan of me, and I am a fan of his. We gave Manchester a beautiful fight, and we should do it again.

I hurt my hand in the sixth round a little bit, but I backed off and played it well strategically. I then decided to close in the final three rounds, and I think that gave me the victory.

I think I hurt him a couple of times and I saw him rock, but I didn't want to be too aggressive. I wanted to be intelligent. And that's what I did.

Now I want to take a good break, and to make sure my hand heals. And then why not come back to England? And why not come back to Manchester, I love it here!

I want to thank my team, my corner, my wife and my family. I promised Gilberto Mendoza I would bring the belt back, and I did!

It was close. You work hard. I've got no complaints" Crolla said reflecting on the contest "I'll watch it back. I made a few mistakes and walked onto a few sharp counters. I'm disappointed in that and I'm disappointed I couldn't win those belts for Manchester.

He rocked my world. I'm not going to lie. My head's still spinning now. I'm in great condition and that's what pulled me through it. It's a pleasure to share the ring with a great like Linares.

He's the best fighter I've shared the ring with. I came so close to beating him so it shows I belong at that level. A few mistakes can cost you dearly and that's what happened tonight. I'm gutted.

The way this city turned out, I've got to make sure I win a rematch. It's something I'm so thankful for.

Eddie Hearn confirmed that an agreement was in place for the two men to do it again "There's no question about a rematch, there will be one, there's an agreement. This young man is a credit to Manchester. He's never moaned once".

"He'll dust himself down. He will fight Jorge Linares again and he will beat him!"

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