By Keith Idec
Jorge Linares says he trained three times harder for his rematch with Anthony Crolla than he did for their first fight.
The WBA world lightweight champion’s increased commitment to training definitely showed Saturday night. Faster and sharper throughout their 12-round rematch, Linares dropped Crolla in the seventh round and beat him much more convincingly in their second meeting than he did during their first fight six months ago.
Linares won handily by the same margin on all three scorecards (118-109), much to the disappointment of Crolla’s hometown fans at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. The 30-year-old Crolla never stopped trying, but Linares’ hand speed, combination punching and movement frustrated the former champion and rendered his aggression ineffective.
Venezula’s Linares improved to 42-3 and moved a step closer toward a 135-pound title unification fight against WBC champion Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs). Crolla fell to 31-6-3.
The 31-year-old Linares also extended his winning streak to 11 fights. He hasn’t lost since Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson stopped Linares in back-to-back bouts over a five-month stretch in 2011 and 2012.
Crolla made the fight competitive during the eighth and ninth rounds, but Linares’ hand speed and combination punching again created separation during the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds, when he built on the large lead he had established. Crolla pressured Linares in the ninth round and landed power punches from close distances.
After suffering a knockdown during the seventh round, Crolla came back in the eighth round and at times shortened the distance between them. Crolla landed several shots to Linares’ head in the eighth round, Crolla’s best three-minute stretch in the fight to that point.
Linares landed a left uppercut that surprised Crolla and forced him to take a knee just past the midway mark of the seventh round. Crolla beat referee Howard Foster’s count, though, and by the end of the round was throwing hard punches back at Linares.
Crolla was aggressive to start the seventh round, yet still couldn’t cut the ring off against a smart, sharp puncher who eventually landed the same uppercut with which he had missed several times earlier in the fight.
Linares completely outclassed Crolla throughout the sixth round by punching in combination and moving when necessary to keep Crolla from the closing the distance between them.
To start the fifth round, Linares landed hard body shots on Crolla, particularly his left hook. Linares began letting his hands go more in the fourth round, as Crolla continued to follow him around the ring.
Crolla connected with a right uppercut in the final minute of the third round, but Linares landed a left uppercut soon thereafter and unloaded a combination that made Crolla retreat. Linares boxed well during the second round, when his lateral movement and fast hands kept Crolla from landing anything significant.
The fighters felt one another out for most of the first round. Neither accomplished much during those three minutes, despite repeated attempts by both boxers to land body shots.
Linares out-pointed Crolla by unanimous decision in their first fight September 24, also at Manchester Arena. Crolla came on during the second half, however, and by the time one of the better action fights of 2016 ended, two of the three judges had it very close (115-114, 115-113, 117-111).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.