Looking Back At Jorge Linares Boxing Career
Basic Info: Jorge Linares is a four-time, three-division world champion, who embodies the word world champion to the very core. Jorge Linares, a Venazuelan who lived his native country until the age of 17, moved to Japan based on advice from the WBA president Gilberto Mendoza, which is a little odd, but it is boxing.
Linares as an amateur, 89-5, but the hype around Linares was despite being a good amateur, with a great pro-style, who could become an all-time great, and the raw talent on display showed elements of a true natural in the ring.
Boxing writer Mario Ortega put it best that Linares was one of the last word of mouth guys. Before Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, before Naoya Inoue, we had Jorge Linares fighting in odd places, who was said to be a true killer. His skills were prestine, his power in the gym legendary as he is known for brutal gym KOs in sparring and on some nights – he looked like a once-in-a-generation guy. He just never could really get the most out of his skills, whether it was focus, durability issues, or just he looked so good at times we wanted him to be better. Linares never met the expectations set by the underground boxing folklore, as well as Jim Lampley great monologues during his HBO run.
The problem was Linares, just never had it, at the next level really. Linares was the guy who could fend off a certain tier of fighter, but the great ones, or even the tough ones, they always had his number. Even then, when Linares faced adversity, it was 50-50, if Linares would win or lose. He was like Amir Khan, who fought in his same era, that when hurt things went badly, but Khan could win some fights he got hurt in – Linares, never seemed to recover in those fights. The only Linares fight I can remember him overcoming great distress to win was against Héctor Velázquez, on a Don Chargin/Paco Damian promoted card in Sacramento, I am sure it happened a few times, but they never bounced off the screen.
This past weekend, we saw a repeat performance of his fight against Antonio DeMarco from a decade prior. Linares lost to Zaur Abdullaev, in Abdullaev’s home country of Russia. Russia by the way is on the brink of war with the Ukraine, which made the setting a bit strange. Linares had a vintage performance in his 54th pro fight, he won all the early rounds, tired late – and got stopped in the 12th and final round. This loss just felt like the end, for Linares.
In Linares’ career, he had a slew of coaches starting with a nine-year run with Sendai Tanaka, Freddie Roach, Ismael Salas, and the last stage of his career Carlos Linares & Rudy Hernandez. Most view the most effective version of Linares as when he worked with Salas, as from 2013-2018 seeming to be the prime of the fighters career.
When I think of Linares it is simple – I think of a warrior.
One Fight To Watch: Jorge Linares vs. Kevin Mitchell
Who He Beat For World Titles: Oscar Larios (WBA featherweight world title – vacant), Whyber Garcia (WBA super featherweight world title – vacant), Javier Prieto (WBC lightweight world title -vacant), Anthony Crolla (WBA lightweight world title) – held the WBC diamond lightweight belt & WBA lightweight world titles at the same time
A True Fighter Of The World
Linares might not have beaten the best he faced, but he fought a quality core of competition. Linares will be best remembered for dropping Vasyl Lomachenko, but also rocked Devin Haney in a losing effort, went to war with Antonio DeMarco and holds a split decision win over Olympic Gold Medalist Luke Campbell.
On his last loss it is fitting Linares would get stopped in Russia, as Linares was one of the few notable fighters unafraid to travel. Linares was never opposed to traveling and fighting overseas and one could say that Linares best fights happened in the U.K. in the middle of the past decade.
Linares faced some of the guys, but let’s be honest – Linares made boxing look easy. The issue with Linares is, it is easy to discredit a fighter like Vasyl Lomachenko or Devin Haney for beating Linares based on resume, but it took a certain level of elite fighter to be able to beat Linares, especially after his U.K. run.
The biggest knock on Linares is he would get stopped at times by journeymen or fighters viewed as fringe contenders, but most of these came by way of his face wearing a crimson mask – and referees would either stop the bout or the doctor wouldn’t allow it to go on. This was not just in one weight class as he was stopped at multiple weight classes by guys I think on a skill-set basis you’d think Linares would hold ever edge over – as Linares was stopped in one round by Pablo Cesar Cano at 140 lbs., two rounds by Sergio Thompson at 135 lbs., and then-undefeated fighter Juan Carlos Salgado at 130 lbs, as Salgado would get stopped in his next fight, Takashi Uchiyama.
Add to the fact that Linares was also heavily favored against Antonio DeMarco, as Linares fought for his third world title, his third vacant world title might I add – the vacant WBC lightweight world title. Linares was well ahead in the fight but fell apart later for DeMarco to stop him in the 11th round of a scheduled 12-round fight. This performance if any, seemed to define the narrative around Linares’ career, as the decline was noticable. Linares would either get caught early or fade late – we never talked about when he looked good against Crolla or Luke Campbell, because perhaps they just came a bit too late in his career, in which we had fixed views on him as a fighter.
Let’s just put it bluntly – Linares had a history of falling apart when hurt in a fight.
Linares’ world title record wasn’t awful at 11-4 with 7 KOs, but the real truth might be against former or current world champions he was 6-4 with 3 KOs, meaning he was a little bit better than a coin-flip chance of winning when matched tough.
Linares looked like a natural and fought with all of his heart, but sometimes his body would fail him in the key moments.
Three Of His Four World Titles Came From Vacant World Title Fights
Something I never knew was Linares’ only world title he didn’t win in a situation in which a title was vacant, was against Anthony Crolla, which also was probably the best period of his career.
Linares first world title win was against Oscar Larios for WBA vacant featherweight title, Whyber Garcia for the WBA vacant super featherweight, and Javier Prieto for the WBC lightweight world title.
The sanctioning bodies did right by Jorge Linares as he got a lot of chances to fight for world titles in good positions.
He Gave Us A Classic With Kevin Mitchell
A major milestone in Linares career was getting up from being on the deck against Kevin Mitchell to stop Mitchell late, in Linares’ best performance as a pro. In years prior, if you told someone Kevin Mitchell would drop Linares in fifth, most would say that Mitchell probably won, but Linares shook off those demons, and beat a beloved U.K. folk-hero.
Yet, Linares would rally back and stop Mitchell in the 10th round. This was the Linares we hoped to see, and in this era – it was very hard, if not impossible to watch this fight in real-time, in the pre-streaming sports era.
This was Linares we had been waiting to see.
His Two Fights With Anthony Crolla Gave His Career New Life
Golden Boy Promotions never turned their back on Jorge Linares, and despite the potential never matching the result, Linares would go on his best run of his career in the U.K. along with Ismael Salas as he would beat beloved British fighter Kevin Mitchell, Anthony Crolla twice, and then come back to America, taking care of Luke Campbell in the L.A. area.
A part of the Linares story that most don’t say, but I feel is true is matchmaker Robert Diaz of Golden Boy Promotions, treated Linares well, and guided the second-half of his career as well as anyone could have.
Crolla, a limited type of fighter, with a good following, had two big fights with Linares in which the two were treated like stars. Linares would win both, and seemingly resurrect his career. I remember seeing him in this era, at the media workout for Canelo Alvarez vs Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and he was one of the marquee stars on Golden Boy Promotions. Even at lightweight, Linares held a lot of status, and was viewed as a true big dog.
Linares going to the U.K. prolonged his career, and gave him late-career oppurtunties against a future hall-of-famer in Vasyl Lomachenko, as when they fought it felt like a big fight on network television, one that might be on PPV in this era, and a fight against a young emerging cotender/champion Devin Haney. The probably was his failed attempt at fighting at 140 lbs that saw him get brutally stopped by Pablo Cesar Cano, that was the most Linares thing ever, that made people question him, once againhow great this run was.
British Announcers Never Said His Name Right
Just watch the Kevin Mitchell or Anthony Crolla fight….