HBO results: Jorge Linares squeaks by Luke Campbell
Jorge Linares escaped with a narrow split decision win over Luke Campbell on Saturday night to retain his WBA lightweight title. The contest was the main event of an HBO card held at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
115-113 Campbell, 114-113 Linares, and 115-112 Linares, was the order in which the scores were read, leaving a palpable tension after a technical chess match.
It didn’t start out that way, however, as Linares, 43-3 (27), came out of the gate looking near-perfect with his footwork, jab and offensive creativity. In the second round, the Venezuelan set up Campbell with a lazy left hook that hid a straight right hand behind it. The shot landed perfectly and Campbell was dropped hard to the canvas for a knockdown.
Campbell, 17-2 (14), managed to survive the remainder of the round but walked to his corner with a leaking cut under his right eye from the shot. Things didn’t look good in the third or fourth for him either but, beginning in the fifth, Campbell started to outwit Linares.
The Olympic gold medalist from Hessle, Yorkshire, started to use his jab more effectively in the fifth but, more importantly, began to time Linares, when he lunged forward. Campbell timed him with either hand and it not only gave Linares something to think about but changed his offensive confidence. Round by round, Campbell got better at this and more confident himself, then, all of a sudden, through the middle rounds, he had completely turned the tide of the fight, entering the 10th. Linares may have sensed that the fight was up for grabs and proceeded to turn up the pace with his combination punching. The championship rounds were close, as the two felt like they had to retaliate with better shots that landed on them, giving a very close contest an intense ending.
“No one can ever doubt my hard work,” said Campbell afterward. “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.”
“A lot of people saw the fight a lot closer than it was because, in the last couple of rounds, he was a lot more aggressive and came forward a lot more,” said Linares. “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.”
In the HBO post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, Linares proceeded to call out another titleholder in the lightweight division, Mikey Garcia, who holds the WBC strap.
Filipino lightweight prospect Romero Duno earned a unanimous decision over Juan Sanchez after receiving three identical scores of 78-74.
Duno, 15-1 (13), had no problem whatsoever landind big shots on his Mexican counterpart throughout the fight but Sanchez took all of them well – showing no signs of being hurt throughout. Sanchez, 30-14 (14), as the scores indicated, had a couple of good rounds but his lack of defense was ultimately the separation of the two fighters.
“I’m satisfied with my performance,” said Duno after the win. “Sanchez was a tough competitor. He fights clean and I respect him. I’ve learned a lot from this fight and am going to take the lessons I’ve learned onto the next.”
Azat “Crazy A” Hovhannisyan dominated Sergio Frias for 10 rounds to propel himself into contention by winning a vacant WBC regional junior featherweight trinket.
In the waning seconds of the fifth round, Hovhannisyan, 13-2 (10), walked back to his corner before the bell had rung, giving off what could’ve been a bonehead moment had Frias took advantage. A blunder this wasn’t, however, as Hovhannisyan was merely being a showman in the middle of a fight, of which he had full control. Fighting out of Glendale, California, the Armenian did whatever he pleased against a fighter who had a clear reach and height advantage. Often switching stances, Hovhannisyan’s left hand was his most versatile weapon of the fight and it stunned Frias, 19-8-2 (10), into a defensive frenzy several times, when against the ropes. Hovhannisyan had the fight in the bag by the time of that fifth round moment and smiled the rest of the way, showing he was just having fun out there. Eventually, he was bled from the left eye, in the ninth round, after a headbutt opened him up, but the smile was still there.
“We’re very happy to get this big belt,” said Hovhannisyan. “This has been years in the making and I fought in the ring with basically one hand, as I fractured my right hand. The swelling reappeared during the fight. Frias was a tough opponent but we put in the work to get the win.”
Coming off his first defeat, Abraham “El Chamaco” Lopez got a stoppage win over Isao Carranza, once the latter’s corner waved it off after the fourth round was completed. The junior lightweight contest was scheduled for eight rounds.
Lopez, 23-1-1 (16), came out of the gate aggressively and Carranza welcomed that style of fight, making this junior lightweight contest one of the most action-packed of the evening. Both men had a comparable amount of success, as they stepped into the proverbial phone booth and, although Carranza showed more pop in his punches, Lopez accrued the most damage with his volume. Lopez was also the more opportune fighter by taking advantage in the lulls Carranza fell into, like in the second round, when he landed a left hook while Carranza showed him his back. Carranza, 15-10-1 (9), never seemed seriously hurt in the fight but certainly took a lot of punishment through four rounds.
“The fight went well. I wish I would’ve finished him earlier but he was a true warrior,” said Lopez, who is signed to Golden Boy Promotions. “It was a good fight. This fight was something I wanted to do, something I was waiting for. What’s next? Whatever the company has in mind. I’ll be working on everything. Win or lose, you always learn something. It doesn’t stop. We’re not perfect. I know I made mistakes but we’re going to keep working.”
In the opening bout of the Golden Boy Promotions card, Rafael Gramajo earned a unanimous decision (59-55, 58-56 twice) over Pedro Melo after six rounds of junior featherweight action.
Fighting out of Los Angeles, California, Gramajo, 9-1-1 (2), had a versatile lead left hand that carried him to a clear victory. The left helped bring his power right hand into the fold, and often had Melo fighting backward and using every inch of the ring. Melo, 17-17-2 (8), had his moments of offensive success but they paled in comparison to those of Gramajo’s.
“I felt good. I feel we started off well,” said Gramajo afterward. “I’m proud of myself. I had not fought in a year and we fought the fight that we wanted to. In boxing, there is always a punch that could catch you and hurt you but thank God it didn’t hurt. I kept boxing and it was a good fight.”