By Paul Mason (@PaulMason1986)
A match that has flown slightly under the radar this weekend sees the supremely talented Venezuelan, Jorge Linares, put his WBA and Ring Magazine Titles on the line against Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic Champion, Luke Campbell. It’s a massive opportunity for Hull based Campbell, but in Linares, he meets a formidable foe. HBO Televise in the USA, while Sky Sports is the place to see the big fight here in the UK. Here I preview the matchup.
Jorge Linares (42-3, KO27, Champion) v Luke Campbell (17-1, KO14) For The WBA & Ring Magazine Lightweight Titles
Jorge Linares has had to fight for his seat at the top table of boxing’s pound for pound stars. Born in Venezuela, Linares has fought in Japan, Panama, Argentina, Mexico, USA, England and his native country in a 45 fight career. Linares had built a solid 27-0 record, including capturing both the WBC and WBA Super Featherweight Titles. He was dethroned by Juan Carlos Salgado in October 2009, wrecked inside one round. Four quick comeback wins followed, but this was then met with two back to back knockout losses, firstly Antonio DiMarco, who was well behind on the cards, knocked Linares out in the eleventh round. The unheralded Sergio Thompson then knocked Linares out in two to leave his career seemingly in tatters. Instead, Linares has rebuilt and is now unbeaten in his last ten fights. In December 2014, he captured the WBC Lightweight Title with a fourth round knockout against Javier Prieto. He then travelled to the O2 Arena, London to defend against Kevin Mitchell. Linares was knocked down, and at times badly hurt, but managed to surge in the later rounds to catch up with the tiring and badly cut Mitchell to stop him. A homecoming fight in Venezuela followed, and a stoppage of Ivan Cano was duly delivered.
In September 2016 Anthony Crolla and Linares met in Manchester. After a slow start Crolla appeared to have found his range by the middle rounds, although the challenger landed with the more eye-catching punches. But the Venezuelan’s superior skills trumped Crolla’s constant pressure and he was awarded a unanimous decision. Two judges thought the fight was close, awarding it 115-114 and 115-113 to Linares, while the third judge had him winning 117-111.
A rematch was a natural, and in March this year, Linares repeated the trick, even more convincingly this time, dropping Crolla in the seventh round with a hellacious uppercut, before settling for a wide points win.
Luke Campbell turned professional under much fanfare in July 2013, nearly a year after striking Gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games. He stopped Andy Harris in the first round of their fight at Hull Kingston Rovers Craven Park Stadium.
After eight straight wins, he stepped up a level, and stopped the tough Daniel Brizuela in five rounds in his hometown. Two more routine wins followed, before he met Tommy Coyle in a local derby in Hull. Campbell was a class above, and dropped Coyle several times before finishing the job in round ten. A shock was to follow for “cool hand” however in his next fight. The unheralded Yvan Mendy dropped Campbell, and then took a merited split decision victory to hand Campbell his first pro defeat.
The rebuild from this has been impressive. He immediately won the Commonwealth Title, stopping Gary Sykes in two rounds. Former IBF Super Featherweight Champion, Argenis Mendez was next, and despite suffering a second round flash knockdown, Campbell won comfortably enough on the cards. Derry Mathews was knocked out in four, and Jairo Lopez stopped in two, before last time out, Campbell halted danger man Darleys Perez in nine rounds at Wembley Stadium. Perez retired with an injured arm.
Unfortunately for Campbell, I see a dominant performance from Linares. The only real shot Campbell has is if he can stop Linares, as illustrated in his three career defeats. But for me Linares will be too wily and have too much experience in the bank to allow this to happen, and I expect him to register a comfortable enough points win. Campbell has the talent to become a World Champion, no doubt, but I just feel this is just a little bit too soon.