By Keith Idec
Jorge Linares is more than a 2-1 favorite over Anthony Crolla as their rematch approaches, despite that their fight will take place in Crolla’s hometown.
Crolla has drawn motivation from those odds and the naysayers while preparing for their lightweight championship rematch Saturday night in Manchester, England.
“There’s a lot of people out there who think there is no way I can beat Jorge Linares,” Crolla said, “but I believe on Saturday night I’ll prove an awful lot of people wrong.
“I’ve always been better going in as the underdog. I know on Saturday night I’m going to need to be the very best Anthony Crolla to beat Jorge Linares. I really believe that if I show the improvements that I’ve made in the gym, then I’ll get my belt back.”
Venezuela’s Linares (41-3, 27 KOs) beat Crolla (31-5-3, 13 KOs) by unanimous decision in their first fight September 24 at Manchester Arena, where their rematch also will take place. That was one of the better action fights of 2016, and Crolla expects more of the same when they meet again in a 12-round rematch Showtime will televise live at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.
“It was one of the fights of the year last time,” Crolla said. “I can certainly see us both even better this time.”
Crolla, 30, was the first of four opponents to go the distance with Linares in Linares’ four lightweight title fights since December 2014. The challenger expects Linares, 31, to try his best to make sure their fight doesn’t go 12 rounds this time, especially since two of the judges scored their first fight so close (115-114, 115-113, 117-111).
“I hope he comes in looking for the knockout,” Crolla said. “If Jorge comes looking for the knockout, he breaks away from what he’s best at. And, if he does so, I believe it falls right into my hands.”
Crolla couldn’t have been better in his last lightweight championship rematch. After settling for a 12-round majority draw with Colombia’s Darleys Perez in their first fight, Crolla came back four months later to knock out Perez (33-2-2, 21 KOs) with a body shot in the fifth round of their November 2015 rematch in Manchester.
If Linares can’t become the second fighter to stop Crolla, he knows he must beat Crolla more convincingly in this 12-rounder to leave Manchester with his WBA world lightweight title for the second time in six months.
“I know once again I have everyone against me in his backyard, but that’s why I trained hard,” Linares said. “I’m not coming in here feeling like the champion. I’m coming in here because I know I have to win very clear to go back home with a win. It’s going to be a different Crolla this time. I have to perform like I know I can to defend my belts.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.