Jorge Linares seeks a new opportunity at 140 pounds
Turning the page in a tome that’s already chronicled a successful boxing career, Jorge Linares will make his junior welterweight debut this Saturday night, with the hope of running into another big opportunity.
“It was an excellent fight with (current WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy) Lomachenko,” the Venezuelan stylist told UCNLive.com, Tuesday afternoon, four months removed from partaking in one of the finest fights of 2018. Even in defeat, Linares, impressed against the Ukrainian, putting him to the mat in a competitive fight that conjured close scorecards at the time he was stopped, in the 10th round, by a Lomachenko body shot.
“We did a lot of things that we didn’t imagine that we could do,” Linares recalled. “I did excellent, despite the fact that the head trainer Ismael Salas wasn’t in there, so I did the work by myself or with half-a-corner and it was an excellent fight despite that.”
Linares, 44-4 (27), knew he wouldn’t have Salas in his corner that night in New York City, thanks to the scheduling issues with the sought-after Cuban coach. It wasn’t an excuse then, during or after the defeat and neither was there a nasty break-up in the end. Frankly Linares’ head trainer has always been an interchangeable face throughout his 15-year boxing career and, starting his 140-pound campaign, that narrative continues. This time it will be a familiar face in Jorge Zerpa, a former coach whom Jorge hired at the behest of his longtime promoter Mr. Akihiro Honda, of Teiken Promotions.
“The most important thing between a trainer and a fighter is the connection,” said Linares. “It’s always worked with (Zerpa). Yes, we spent a lot of years being inactive, in the sense that we weren’t together but seeing him again, coming back with him again, we connected. It’s been a wonderful preparation. It’s been good working with him.”
Zerpa, a fellow Venezuelan, has been living with Linares in Las Vegas for the past three months, preparing for his junior welterweight debut. According to Zerpa, he helped train and corner Linares for three professional fights in the past, one being a fight in Japan, where Linares started his career and continues to call Tokyo his home today. However the other two were more prominent. Zerpa was there for Linares’ first world title shot, where, in 2007, he stopped Oscar Larios to capture the WBC featherweight title, in his American debut. Then in 2010 – the last time he says he was in Linares’ corner – Zerpa was there for the comeback fight after Jorge’s shocking first defeat, a rare domestic fight for the globe-trekker, who beat Francisco Lorenzo via majority decision.
How this rekindled union works going forward will start to show this Saturday night, when Linares faces Abner Cotto, 23-3 (12), in a non-title bout, scheduled for 10 rounds. It’s the main event of a Golden Boy Promotions card (who co-promotes Linares) taking place at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, and streamed live worldwide on Facebook Watch (9:00 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“The most important thing is that I hope he prepared well,” Linares said about Cotto, who is riding a five-fight win streak. “I hope he did what he’s supposed to do, that he does things like a professional in the ring and that we give a great fight this Saturday.”
As for whether 140 pounds will be the final stop of Linares’ career, the 33-year-old responded, “I feel good. I doubt I’m going to be able to move up to 147 pounds. Right now the most important thing to do is to show what I can do at 140 pounds.”
The talent in the junior welterweight class has blossomed within the last year and it will seemingly only grow stronger with Linares entering the fray.
Starting in October, the World Boxing Super Series eight-man tournament in the division will begin and end with a unified IBF/WBA titleholder a year-and-a-half from now but there will still be plenty of opportunity for Linares, in the meantime. Americans Jose Ramirez (WBC) and Maurice Hooker (WBO) are the other current titlists but Linares only mentioned one big name who has already stepped into the junior welterweight waters – the current IBF/WBC unified lightweight titleholder Mikey Garcia, who is perhaps the most lucrative name he could seek.
In the co-feature on Facebook Watch is a Filipino lightweight prospect who was close to getting his opportunity over the summer – and it would’ve been against Linares.
At a random press conference in Hollywood last August, Romero Duno told this writer he was in the running to face Linares next but after the three-division champ decided to move up in weight, the 22-year-old will instead try and display himself best on this stage.
“It’s very important for me because there’s a lot of Filipino fans that can watch the fight. Maybe everyone in the Philippines has a Facebook,” Duno said at the same media workout, on Tuesday, at the Westside Boxing Club.
“I expect a good fight this time. I expect that he will give all his best. I do not want to lose this fight.”
Duno, 17-1 (14), trains out of the Wild Card Boxing Club, in Hollywood, California, under the supervision of two longtime Filipino trainers. He first caught a break, in early 2017, when he brutally knocked out then-unbeaten prospect Christian “Chimpa” Gonzalez, in his American debut, which won him a promotional contract with Golden Boy. There was a proverbial homecoming fight in General Santos City for that occasion alone and Duno has since fought and won three times in Southern California, this Saturday marking his fourth outing in 12 months.
Ezequiel Aviles, 16-2-3 (6), is Duno’s opponent for Saturday night. Fighting out of Ensenada, Mexico, it will be Aviles’ American debut, 16 months removed from his most recent outing – a 10th round stoppge defeat to Mexicali prospect Oliver Quintana. For Duno, it’s a follow-up to his biggest night last May, when he headlined an ESPN card, on which he beat Gilberto Gonzalez via unanimous decision. It was successful night for Duno, who had never gotten that much exposure before but when asked what he wants to accomplish on Saturday night, Romero hinted that he wanted to right some wrongs.
“This fight, I want to improve throwing my punches properly,” Duno said. “My last fight, I threw a lot of wild punches. I saw a lot of mistakes. I don’t want to be like that this upcoming fight. We trained with the basics and improving my footwork, so that I can throw properly.”