Going with my heart over my head
There is no boxing on HBO or Showtime this weekend (which will be a common theme throughout this fall) but there is an anticipated fight that will take place today from the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England between WBA lightweight beltholder Anthony Crolla and former WBC titlist Jorge Linares.
For all the talk of Gennady Golovkin-Kell Brook (which also took place in the U.K.) and last week’s pay-per-view event from Arlington, Texas that featured Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Liam Smith, Crolla-Linares is the superior match-up. While those other two events were certainly star-driven and powered by marquee names, this fight (which will be aired on the AWE network – for the hundreds who have it in the States – and streamed on klowdtv.com), is the best September has to offer.
Crolla, who comes into this fight with the title and home-canvas advantage, is a boxer who is on a strong run. It was only a few years ago, when he was faltering against Derry Mathews and Gary Sykes and he was considered nothing more than a domestic-level talent by those in England.
But he has become a legitimate world-class lightweight. Not only has Crolla notched victories over Gavin Rees and John Murray, he just continued to stick with it and, in July of last year, landed a title shot against Darleys Perez that was ruled an unpopular draw. In that bout, many believe he should’ve had his hands raised in victory. Four months later, in the rematch, he emphatically won the title by drilling Perez with a body shot that halted the Colombian in five.
His first title defense last May, came against the hard-punching Ismael Barroso, who some observers believed would wrest the title from Crolla (and ahem, yeah…I was one of them) but, after a strong start, Crolla collapsed Barroso in seven heats. The bull had been impaled by an improving matador and as the loud throng reacted to his performance, it was clear that Crolla had become an attraction in England.
In Linares, he’s facing one of the most elegant and stylistic fighters in recent memory. But while Linares is as shiny as sparkling as a chandelier, unfortunately he can be as fragile as one. As I like to say – he’s fantastically gifted, yet fatally flawed. And like an Amir Khan, every fight of theirs is a tightrope act. Till they are firmly on the other side, they are always in a bit of danger because one hard gust of wind can send them to their demise.
The first time this reporter came across Linares was during one of the training camps for Manny Pacquiao at the Wild Card Boxing Club. The “Pac-Man” was preparing for his rematch with either Erik Morales or Juan Manuel Marquez (hey, I’m getting old, so cut me some slack) and the late Macka Foley came up to me and said, “Hey, have you seen this Linares kid?” I hadn’t, at that point, but, according to Foley, he was absolutely giving Pacquiao fits during their sparring sessions. It’s something I was able to witness firsthand a week or so later.
There’s no doubt I was sold on him. He just looked like a can’t-miss, surefire Hall-of-Famer-to-be. But alas, the difference between being very good and great is a thin line that is often impossible to cross. While he had all of the requisite tools for success, Linares didn’t have the necessary durability to truly be a great one. He was stopped in stunning fashion in October of 2009 by Juan Carlos Salgado and then, five fights later, up big on the cards against WBC lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco, his face became a crimson tide and he was stopped in the 11th. As there was talk of a rematch, he was once again stopped in stunning fashion by Sergio Thompson.
But through it all, Linares has not been a bust. No, this isn’t boxing’s version of Michael Olowokandi but he hasn’t been that elite fighter, either. While he has many title belts on his resume, they have come in vacant title shots and interim belts. It could be argued that a victory over Crolla would be his most legitimate world title victory yet and, to a certain degree, would legitimize his career.
Either way, it should be a helluva fight. Both boxers have a lot on the line in what is becoming a very interesting landscape at 135, something that was discussed in detail by Doug Fischer, Mike Baca and me on “10 Count”:
Linares is the more naturally talented of the two. Crolla is tougher. My head says the streaking Crolla, buoyed by the English partisans, will grind his way to a victory over the always-vulnerable Venezuelan. But my heart says Linares just might still be a bit too good for Crolla. Linares is like that beautiful woman who has broken your heart in the past but, dammit, you just can’t help yourself and become smitten all over again.
So yeah, I’m going with my heart, here.
Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum says WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko will return on Thanksgiving weekend at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and WBC/WBO junior welterweight beltholder Terence Crawford will return in early 2017
Anyone get the sense that the Tyson Fury-Wladimir Klitschko rematch just isn’t meant to be?…So fighters still sign with Don King? Good luck to them…Can’t wait for Clemson-Louisville next weekend…It’s surreal to think that Vin Scully’s run with the Dodgers is coming to an end. He’s truly an icon…OK, so the Rams will score a touchdown this week, right?…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.