By Chris Robinson
Overshadowed by the disappointing ending in last weekend’s Chad Dawson-Bernard Hopkins affair was just how exhilarating the finish was to the Antonio DeMarco-Jorge Linares lightweight title bout that took place just before it. While Dawson would capture the WBC light heavyweight strap from Hopkins after tossing him to the ground in the second round, leaving Hopkins in pain, with an injured left shoulder, and apparently no shape to continue, it was DeMarco’s come-from-behind heroics that captured the essence of what the sport is all about.
Although Linares dominated the early rounds of the bout, out landing DeMarco at a healthy ratio and controlling the action with his polished skills, DeMarco never showed any signs of resignation and began imposing his will towards the halfway point of the contest. Linares had been bleeding heavily from a cut on the bridge of his nose and in eleventh round DeMarco would began tagging him with huge shots, eventually stopping the backpedaling Venezuelan along the ropes in the 11th round as referee Raul Caiz Sr. had seen enough.
As DeMarco and his team erupted in celebration, the sorrow of Linares painted a different picture as he sulked in his stool in defeat. Watching the action unfold from ringside, I noticed how Linares’ strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza seemed to almost be in disbelief and a few days later he was still upset at how everything transpired.
“It’s one of those things that can be seen in a lot of ways,” Ariza stated. “If you don’t stop the cut between the sixth and eleventh, why stop? If you aren’t going to complain about it for the five rounds that it’s a bloody mess, why stop it in the last twenty seconds of a round with one round left?”
But perhaps Caiz Sr. felt that Linares simply was simply taking too many clean punches from the onrushing DeMarco, and that his concern was for how tremendous the punishment was becoming. Ariza counters that notion by pointing out that at the highest levels of boxing, a fighter deserves the benefit of the doubt.
“This is a championship title fight and if you really look at the fight, when he stopped it, those last four punches didn’t land,” Ariza claimed. “At this stage of the game, when there is a title on the line, you have to let these fighters fight. Especially when Jorge hadn’t been hurt the entire fight. It’s not like he took a knee throughout the fight. You gotta let these guys overcome adversity at some point. To me, it was just another inexperienced ref refereeing at a level that he might not have belonged at.”
The fight marked Ariza’ first time working with Linares, a former champion at 126 and 130 pounds, as he was under the guidance of trainer Freddie Roach both in the Philippines and at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles as he prepared for DeMarco. Ariza may work with a wealth of talent on a yearly basis, most notably welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan, but in taking in everything that the 26-year old brings to the table, he was completely taken back.
“Tremendous athlete. Very impressive,” Ariza continued. “It’s really a pleasure and an honor to work with athletes like that that are so disciplined and listen and are just like sponges, ready to absorb and put themselves through the tremendous program that we have. Most people fall out and he stuck with it. And I think that showed in the fight, even when he could have danced around and moved and boxed the last couple of rounds, he went in there to war. I think it just goes to show you the confidence he has in his conditioning and just how he felt.”
Surely the loss was hard a hard one to cope with for Linares, whose only previous setback was a shocking first round knockout loss to Juan Carlos Salgado nearly two years ago in Japan, but Ariza is adamant that the victory was swiped from them.
“Of course he’s heartbroken but he doesn’t feel like he lost the fight. Of course he wants the rematch. We’ve watched the fight three times, me, Linares, and [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr., and it’s really hard when you don’t lose the fight and the fight is kind of taken from you. Just when you have that opportunity, when you have that chance to take yourself to the next level,” said Ariza.
If you hang around in boxing long enough, no matter what your profession, you are sure to suffer setbacks. Linares’ spirit may have been dampened on Saturday, but there still lies a long road ahead and the wheels are already in motion for his return to the Wild Card.
“We’ve already discussed it,” Ariza closed out. “He’s going to take a break, he’s going to go to Japan for three weeks, we’re going to let those cuts heal, and we’re going to go right back to it. I learned a lot, this is my first time with him, and now I understand his body and now I know what I have to work on. Hopefully we get this rematch and we get to go and do this again.”
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]