By Ben Jacobs
The belief emerging from Jorge Linares’ team is evident. While the Venezuelan put in what some describe as his career best display last September against Anthony Crolla, his trainer Ismael Salas told BoxingScene.com that this Saturday’s rematch could be even better for the WBA lightweight world champion.
“Honestly, there’s always things you can improve on, but this training camp has been the longest and most solid,” Salas explained, from his hotel in Manchester.
“Jorge is 31, you don’t want to put much muscle on him or he’ll gain weight so he didn’t do a lot of weight training, but we did make some adjustments on the physical side of things. He did the first part of his training in Japan, four or five weeks, and then he came to Las Vegas at the beginning of January until now - so it has been a long camp.”
Linares succeeded in hurting Crolla in their first bout but Crolla, typically, showed his determination and fought back. Is a knockout on the cards this time?
“In my style of training, the knockout is like a home run in baseball. It comes, you don’t look for it. We are prepared for what Crolla brings, I’m sure Crolla has made some adjustments from the first fight so it will be a competitive fight. Crolla is fighting at home and he’s very consistent. Jorge couldn’t get the knockout last time because he hurt his hand. This time he has been healthy, no injuries, and he’s on weight.
“Jorge is in his prime as an athlete. He has had a long career, the last few years with me we have made adjustments. He came to me with great talent which he has always had, but maybe before he was too young to make the right adjustments,” Ismael continued.
“He had some losses and he came back. The first thing to do was get his self-confidence back, he always had that talent but didn’t reach the top for various reasons but now, since the Kevin Mitchell fight, despite the knockdown, he showed what he can do and showed it in the Crolla fight as well. He hurt his hand but we were in a position where we knew he could control the fight without taking risks.”
Linares shares a gym with Cuba’s former IBF lightweight champion Rancés Barhelemy who recently relinquished his title to move up to the junior welterweight division. Nevertheless, this time, the two men did not spar.
“They didn’t spar for this camp because I’m doing different kinds of work with him. He’s (Barthelemy) in a higher weight class now and his style is very different from Crolla’s. Our objective was to find someone similar to Crolla. We were fortunate to have Manny Robles’ son in camp with us, a very good guy in all senses and I think he can be a champion. He gave Jorge very good work.
“We’ve done around 125, 126 rounds of sparring with different opponents. We got some good sparring partners in this time around, and the type of sparring has been tuned to Crolla’s style, given that we know how he fights.”