Jorge Linares: The Sweet Scientist
It’s often asked why boxing, of all things, is called “The Sweet Science.” After all this is a rather violent and brutal sport. But to answer that question, I’ll just refer to Jorge Linares’ recent outing this past weekend in Manchester, England against Anthony Crolla.
Over 36 minutes, Linares painted a Picasso on the Manchester Arena canvas.
Going back to the very same venue, in which he won the WBA lightweight title last September, he had promised to more definitively defeat Crolla in front of the latter’s partisans.
That is precisely what he did dominating from bell-to-bell and winning unanimously by the scores of 118-109, across the board.
What Linares did was pure poetry in motion. While Crolla is gritty and game, the Venezuelan is simply gifted and a class above. He put his tools to use, early on, first gliding around the ring to out-box the challenger and then keeping him at bay with a quick, piston-like jab that allowed him to control the pacing and tempo of this fight. When there wasn’t much going on, the jab was a constant presence.
And by the middle rounds, Linares started to put together fast combinations that never allowed Crolla to fight comfortably. Linares is one of the very few boxers who can actually execute the fancy mitt-combinations you see at the gym in a real fight. They are exquisite in nature and executed at a high level. He doesn’t so much punch but slashes with his fists and throws a dizzying array of shots.
For the rematch, it was clear that Linares and his trainer Ismael Salas worked on adding more uppercuts to their repertoire and those from the left side quickly found a home early on. Then, in the seventh, this weapon sent Crolla staggering to the canvas. It’s the type of punch that just a handful of fighters would even attempt and fewer would land so perfectly. It was ballet with boxing gloves.
Mikhail Baryshnikov only wishes he were so graceful.
This sequence made it crystal clear who was the superior man but, to his credit, Crolla not only survived the rest of the seventh but fought gamely in the next few rounds, even giving a few moments of discomfort to Linares. But not even the home crowd – whose silence in the middle stages of the fight told the story of Linares’ dominance – could sway the judges. It was that dominant of a performance for Linares, who upped his record to 42-3 (27) and has clearly regained his mojo as a top-flight prizefighter.
You don’t see Linares on any of these pound-for-pound lists but, when it comes to pure skill and artistry, just how many boxers are in his class?
There’s no doubting just how big a victory this is for Linares but also for Golden Boy Promotions, which is badly in need of some mid-lineup bats to support its clean-up hitter Saul Alvarez. There’s a reason Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya made the trip to Britain to join his company’s matchmaker Robert Diaz. A guy like Linares will consistently get slots on premium cable outlets and is a key component in a very deep 135-pound class.
There is a lot of talk of a showdown with WBC beltholder Mikey Garcia (which would be one of the most anticipated pairings among boxing aficionados) and Vasyl Lomachenko, who is currently a 130-pound titlist. Again, boxing politics and alliances may hinder these potential bouts but here’s hoping a boxing Glasnost will facilitate these pairings in the near future.
(And I’m sure many of you are asking whom I’d favor between Linares and Garcia. Well, I’d favor Garcia, based on the fact he’s a precise counter-puncher, who can thump, and the feeling here is he catches the chin better than Linares. But again, that’s just one opinion. Let’s hope we get to see this come to fruition in the ring.)
Regardless, it’s clear that the meltdowns against Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson are in Linares’ rear-view mirror. However they certainly can’t be forgotten. For all this prodigious gifts, Linares does have that one glaring Achilles – his punch resistance will forever be problematic. Perhaps he’s the modern-day Terry Norris, always dangerous and forever vulnerable. Both were like that beautiful chandelier: bright, sparkly and elegantly crafted. Just don’t drop it.
That said, to his credit, Linares has rehabilitated his career after shocking setbacks and now understands his own vulnerabilities and works around them. No longer can his career be considered a disappointment. Years ago, he came into the pro ranks as a highly-touted prospect (who, as a teenager, gave Manny Pacquiao tough rounds at the Wild Card Boxing Club) to a younger fighter who won various pieces of world titles. At age 31, he has seemingly found himself as a fighter.
No, Linares isn’t a perfect fighter (punch resistance matters) but he certainly is a beautiful one.
While Jason Quigley defeated Glen Tapia over 10 rounds last Thursday night, he failed to deliver the type of statement that was expected. The badly-faded Tapia was all teed up for Quigley to look spectacular against and, after a quick start, he was then dragged into a dogfight of sorts and actually scuffled his way through the fight. Now, it has to be mentioned that Quigley injured his right hand early and that certainly hampered his efforts.
However, what was alarming was how his fundamentals broke down in the middle rounds – especially how his right hand seemed to pull away so far from his chin as he jabbed with his left (many call this the “bow and arrow”) and, many times, he got his feet crossed up and left himself in harm’s way defensively.
Again, this was just his 13th pro fight but it’s clear that he’s a long way from really being a middleweight player.
Here’s hoping Randy Caballero can get active again and start fighting much more often…Re-watched the fights on HBO on Saturday night. Still mystified over Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez not getting the nod over Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and, in my eyes, Gennady Golovkin clearly beat Daniel Jacobs, as compared to my first viewing while at ringside…So is Andre Ward now playing financial adviser to Sergey Kovalev? Just sign your end of the contract…So yeah, lots of brackets were busted for this edition of “March Madness”…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.