By Keith Idec
Jorge Linares escaped with his WBA world lightweight title Saturday night.
Mandatory challenger Luke Campbell came back from a second-round knockdown and made adjustments to give Venezuela’s Linares a very tough time in their 12-round, 135-pound title fight at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Linares still won a split decision to retain his championship.
Two judges – Max DeLuca (114-113) and Zac Young (115-112) – scored the fight for Linares (43-3, 27 KOs). Judge Victor Loughlin credited Campbell with the victory (115-113).
The scores aside, the taller, rangier Campbell (17-2, 14 KOs) had plenty of success with his jab, straight left hand and right hook throughout the second half of their HBO “Boxing After Dark” main event. Linares’ straight right hand was his most effective punch during their bout, but England's Campbell kept him from landing it for long stretches after having difficulty defending it early in their fight.
“No one can ever doubt my heart,” Campbell told HBO’s Max Kellerman in the ring after the fight. “Yeah, I got off to a rocky start. He hit me with a nice, clean shot in the second round, caught me on the eye, cut it. I wasn’t dazed or anything like that. It was just a nice shot that put me on my back. From there, I had double vision in one eye for the rest of the fight.
“But from then, I fought. I out-classed him. I thought I won the fight. He’s a great champion, but I thought I out-classed him. I didn’t think he was landing any shots whatsoever, and I was catching him with all the clean shots.”
The fight was even closer according to unofficial CompuBox statistics than it was on the scorecards.
CompuBox credited Campbell with landing one more punch overall than Linares (141-of-524 to 140-of-414). CompuBox counted more power punches for Campbell (97-of-297 to 76-of-196) and more jabs for Linares (64-of-218 to 44-of-227).
“He was a tough opponent,” Linares said, according to his translator. “Many people said he was very easy, but it’s not for no reason he’s an Olympic champion. Truthfully, I fought very well. I fought very well all the way to the 12th round. And I think in the fifth round, I started to box him a little bit because I didn’t wanna get hurt.”
Linares added that he went for the knockout in the 12th round, but eventually realized he’d have to settle for a points victory.
Campbell came out aggressive to start the 12th round, but Linares landed a straight right hand buzzed Campbell early in the round. Linares landed a combination just after the midway point of the 12th round as well.
Linares pressed the action in the 11th round, which Campbell appeared to take off.
A straight left hand by Campbell snapped back Linares’ head with about 45 seconds remaining in the 10th round. Linares had plenty of success with his straight right hand later in the 10th round.
Campbell continued to have success with his right hook in the eighth and ninth rounds, as Linares tried to find a way through Campbell’s jab. Campbell also landed a solid left hand to Linares’ midsection late in the ninth round, and added another just before the bell sounded to end that round.
A right hook by Campbell caught Linares flush with 1:40 to go in the seventh round.
Campbell caught Linares with a good right hand that connected as Linares was moving backward before the midway mark of the sixth round. Later in the sixth, Campbell connected with a straight left hand that knocked Linares into the ropes.
Campbell began making the fight more competitive in the fourth round, when he used his jab and distance well to out-box Linares.
Linares hit Campbell with a straight right hand that dropped Campbell with 51 seconds to go in the second round. Campbell made it to the end of the round, but by then had a cut beneath his right eye, the first laceration of Campbell’s career.
Linares landed a sweeping left hook to Campbell’s head early in the second round. His strong second round enabled Linares to overcome a slow start in the first round, most of which he spent trying to find his range against a taller southpaw.
Linares, 32, extended his winning streak to 12 fights following back-to-back technical knockout losses to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson in October 2011 and March 2012. The 29-year-old Campbell, of Hessle, England, was the No. 1 challenger for Linares’ WBA 135-pound championship.
Linares ended Campbell’s five-fight winning streak. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist suffered his first professional loss, a 12-round split decision to Yvan Mendy (38-4-1, 18 KOs, 1 NC), in December 2015 at O2 Arena in London.
The Linares-Campbell match aired after HBO replayed the middleweight championship draw between Gennady Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) and Canelo Alvarez (49-1-2, 34 KOs) that took place September 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The fight that had been scheduled to air live before Linares fought Campbell – a 10-round, 140-pound bout between San Diego’s Antonio Orozco (26-0, 17 KOs) and Mexico’s Roberto Ortiz (35-1-2, 26 KOs) – was canceled Friday. Orozco was way overweight and never attempted to set foot on the California State Athletic Commission’s scale Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.