A fight night at the Forum
In front of a rather sparse crowd at the Forum in Inglewood, California, Jorge Linares eked by Luke Campbell by the slimmest of margins to retain his WBA lightweight title. Linares, one of the most elegant stylists in the sport, was a heavy favorite and expected to have his way with the long, lanky Brit.
And after scoring a second round knockdown of the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and cutting him, it looked for all the world that the fight would be a one-sided affair for the Venezuelan.
But something happened in the middle of the fight – it became a boxing match and the tall southpaw from Yorkshire buoyed on by a throng of his supporters from the U.K., began to trouble Linares with his range and height. Usually, Linares is a whirlwind of activity who can unleash some of the most pristine combinations the sport has ever seen but, on this night, those artistic outbursts were rare, as Campbell began to control the distance and spacing between the two.
By the late rounds, the fight had tightened up and there was an uneasy feeling ringside that while Linares had built an early lead, it had evaporated. There were long stretches when the only people in the audience you heard were Campbell’s supporters. More than once, Campbell landed lefts that snapped Linares’ head back.
“No one can ever doubt my hard work. Yeah, I got off to a rocky start; (Linares) caught me in the eye, a nice shot that put me on the mat. But I had to fight; I had to get focused. I didn’t think he was landing any shots whatsoever in the second half,” said Campbell, afterward.
It was unusual to see Linares, who normally shows impeccable form, lunge and reach so much and be off-balance but it was obvious that the physical dimensions of his mandatory challenger troubled him. And Campbell showed he possesses a high boxing IQ, as he was able think right alongside Linares and make him miss much more than usual.
As the scorecards were read after 12 rounds, judge Victor Loughlin had Campbell up the score of 115-113, while Zac Young had it 115-112 for Linares. Max DeLuca scored six rounds for each man but with that second round knockdown scored by the defending champion, it meant that Linares was up on his scorecard, 114-113.
Linares said, “A lot of people saw the fight a lot closer than it was because, in the last couple of rounds, (Campbell) was a lot more aggressive and came forward a lot more. When I first started off, I felt very fast. The only thing he had over me was that he was a very technical fighter. He was very tall and had long arms – I had to adjust to his style throughout the fight.”
It wasn’t his most dominant or spectacular outing but Linares was able to come out with a victory in his first bout in the States since 2014. Now, Linares – who stated that he would like to fight WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia next – can move on to bigger and better things.
He won – but it certainly wasn’t easy.
“Overall, I’m satisfied with my performance,” said Linares, who improved to 43-3 (27).
NEWS AND NOTES
– My personal scorecard from ringside was 115-112 for Linares. I thought he won the first five rounds before Campbell swung the tide in the middle stages. Many of the rounds were tough to score, as it was a real tactical battle in there. You could argue that it was the type of bout that, were it in the U.K., and hosted by Matchroom Boxing and not in America with Golden Boy Promotions, Linares may not have come out of there with his title.
– The live co-feature to this broadcast was supposed to be a junior welterweight contest between Antonio Orozco and Roberto Ortiz. But for the second time, in less than a year, Orozco was unable to make weight. Last December, as he was scheduled to face Fidel Maldonado Jr. at the Fantasy Springs Casino, on HBO Latino, he was taken to the hospital for dehydration the morning of the weigh-in.
This past April 1, he made 140 pounds to face Keandre Gibson and put forth a strong performance in scoring a stoppage.
HBO slots don’t come around often and Orozco punted this opportunity away. You wonder when – and more importantly if – he’ll get that chance ever again.
– Right at the same time Linares-Campbell came on HBO (after it aired the replay of Saul Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin), the “World Boxing Super Series” quarterfinal bout between cruiserweights Yunier Dorticos and Dmitry Kudryashov was taking place (and streamed on the WBSS website) and it was short-but-explosive contest that saw both men hurling leather early on. In the second, an overhand right sent Kudryashov down and out for the count, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
No, it wasn’t a long fight but it was one that delivered.
– The announced crowd at the Forum was just over 4,000 on Saturday night but honestly it didn’t look anywhere near that many. This particular card – as “Mr. KO Tickets” Jim Boone had forecasted a month-and-a-half ago – was in the unfortunate spot of being placed last after cards in the local area on August 26 at the StubHub Center with Miguel Cotto, the “SuperFly” card at the same venue two week later and then last week’s big show in Las Vegas. Yeah, there might have been some local consumer fatigue and Linares was facing a relatively anonymous foe.
– This scribe is a huge fan of WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez and his fan-friendly style but, once again, he was involved in another tough battle, this time, against Genesis Servania on Friday night in Tucson, Arizona. There is a growing sentiment from boxing insiders that Valdez is too exciting for his own good and that he needs to start becoming a more fuel-efficient prizefighter who doesn’t always throw his hardest punches and can box his way through segments of fights.
The co-feature on this ESPN/Top Rank show was a scrap between WBO 168-pound titlist Gilberto Ramirez and Jesse Hart, which ended up a very entertaining 12-round affair. Early on, it was all “Zurdo,” who sent a shaky Hart to the canvas in the second. This was clearly a Ramirez – who’s bouts are usually monotonous – who decided to mix it up inside for this bout. However after a rough start, Hart dusted himself off and made it a fight. His rally fell short but it was certainly a game effort.
It was a very good doubleheader which was shown on just about every ESPN platform short of “The Ocho” before the Cubs-Brewers game finally came to an end. (And boxing fans, again, when DVR’ing the fights on this network, make sure to record the program following it or extend your recording by an hour or so. Also, just in case, record ESPNews to boot).
The highest compliment I can give this card is not only do I want to see Valdez and Ramirez again but also the opponents they defeated.
Junior featherweight Azat Hovhannisyan and lightweight Romero Duno notched victories on the undercard on Saturday night at the Forum…The big news over the weekend was that former middleweight titlist Daniel Jacobs had signed with Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn. We’ll have more on that later this week on UCNLive.com…Also, former two-division titleholder Carl Frampton has inked a deal with Frank Warren…Tom Brady is still Tom Brady. Don’t let week one fool ya…I can’t believe this but the Miami Hurricanes offense, right now, is much better than their defense…Not sure I’m going to stick with CBS’ “Kevin Can Wait,” with the cast changes…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.