British boxing has taken a couple of blows in recent weeks but on Saturday night Anthony Crolla has the chance to get one back for the UK.
Crolla defends his crown against former champion Jorge Linares as both men stake their claim to be known as the best lightweight in the world. And the undercard’s worth a quick peek too.
In the last two weeks Crolla has seen his stablemate Liam Smith brutally mugged for his world title and arguably Britain’s best boxer Kell Brook feel the pain of defeat for the first time. Now the lightweight champion is up against three-weight king Linares and it looks like a big ask – even if Manchester’s ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla is the favourite.
Linares has held belts at featherweight, super-featherweight and lightweight in his 14 years as a pro and he is used to training and sparring with Manny Pacquiao. The guy is a seriously classy operator but he has suffered three defeats, each time by KO. Two stoppages came inside two rounds and the Venezuelan definitely did not look great under the kosh.
That’s good news for Crolla who has stepped up with two knockout wins in his last two contests, both times for a world title. Ok, both those stoppages were from body shots, and he has a KO ratio of only 34 per cent and Linares is much more talented than those guys. But if Crolla comes out in blitz-mode the for him to win in rounds 1-3 will look like an absolute gift.
Crolla’s game plan probably does not rely on him being a big enough puncher, and having an iron enough chin, to pull off the bulldozer tactic. The Mancunian has an incredible engine though and he can pour on the pressure all night long. The hometown favourite is to win in rounds 7-12 and that is well worth a wager.
Being the away fighter might not mean much to Linares who moved to Japan when he was 17 years old to turn professional. He’s competed all over the world and he came to the UK last year to defend his strap against Kevin Mitchell. Despite getting knocked down and being behind on points he won by KO in round 10.
Linares left Mitchell’s face about twice the size it started as and he has seven stoppage wins in his last eight bouts. ‘The Golden Boy’ has power but all of those wins were against guys who had been KO’d before. Crolla has been stopped once also, in 2012, but since then he’s looked rock solid and even survived an whack with a concrete slab.
A certain possibility ..
If a knockout isn’t a certainty, a knockdown is certainly a possibility! Crolla is to be knocked down and win, while Linares is a bit better value at for the same bet. Crolla knows that Linares doesn’t like getting bombarded and if the former British champion makes it a war the for both fighters to touch the canvas is a great price.
Linares is a stylish, quick and skilful counter-puncher but Mitchell had success pushing the Venezuelan backwards and throwing big combinations. I think Crolla will try to fight like the Londoner and it will become a very close contest. Crolla has drawn three of his last nine bouts and it’s to end that way on Saturday.
The big concern for Team Crolla is that Linares just throws more punches and lands more clean shots. The British champ has been outworked in the past and his last three KO wins have been rescue jobs with him behind or drawing on the scorecards. Linares is a very generous to win by decision and make it The Rest Of The World 3 – Britain 0.
There’s an intriguing British middleweight title fight between John Ryder and Jack Arnfield on the undercard. Ryder has been installed as the big favourite but Arnfield has shown he’s worthy of a shot and tough enough to give it a good go. Ryder has zero KO wins in four fights but he has the skill required to take the victory on points.
Hosea Burton was supposed to have a big British title clash but instead he’s been pitched against Mexican journeyman Fernando Castaneda. The away fighter has not only travelled the world he’s also moved up the weights. Burton has found his power in recent fights and he can stop the naturally smaller man in this contest.