By Keith Idec
Now that Jorge Linares has beaten Anthony Crolla so easily in their rematch, promoter Frank Warren isn’t all that interested in making a Crolla-Terry Flanagan fight.
It makes much more sense to Warren, Flanagan’s promoter, to try to lure Linares to return to the United Kingdom for a lightweight title unification fight against Flanagan. That would require Flanagan, the WBO world lightweight champion, to beat Russia’s Petr Petrov in their April 8 bout at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Warren can only hope the unbeaten Flanagan fares much better than Crolla performed against Linares on Saturday at Manchester Arena.
Venezuela’s Linares (42-3, 27 KOs) used his huge advantages in hand speed, skill and athleticism to soundly defeat Crolla (31-6-3, 13 KOs) in a rematch of their September 24 bout at Manchester Arena. Their first fight was close on two scorecards (115-114, 115-113, 117-111), but Linares dropped Crolla in the seventh round Saturday and won by the same comfortable margin on all three scorecards (118-109).
Manchester’s Crolla said after losing to Linares again that he wants to fight Flanagan (32-0, 13 KOs), a southpaw from Manchester.
A Crolla-Flanagan fight would’ve been bigger when Crolla owned the WBA world lightweight title Linares won from him six months ago, because it would’ve been a partial 135-pound title unification bout between two Manchester champions. Warren says his British promotional rival, Eddie Hearn, Crolla’s promoter, twice steered Crolla toward fights against Linares over opportunities to fight Flanagan.
Hearn still contended following Saturday’s defeat that it would take at least $1 million for Crolla to fight Flanagan because Crolla remains a bigger draw in England. Warren isn’t interested in Flanagan-Crolla anymore, even for a lot less money than Hearn mentioned.
“That cannot happen now,” Warren told London’s Daily Mail for a story posted on its website Monday night. “If Anthony wants another world title shot after being comprehensively beaten twice in succession by Linares, he will need to win at least two non-championship fights and win them convincingly.
“Not least because the WBO will not allow [Flanagan-Crolla] unless he takes those bouts to justify a world ranking to them. He didn’t just lose to Linares. He was totally outclassed in the first fight, even though Linares had a broken hand. If we’re honest, he didn’t win a single round on Saturday, when he was completely demolished. The judges gave him a couple rounds out of sympathy. Yes, he was gallant, but that’s not enough to be a realistic contender. I’m much more interested in giving the British public another chance to see Linares. He’s a great boxer and a fight with Flanagan would be an absolute cracker.”
Linares, meanwhile, is open to returning to Manchester to face Flanagan. It is more likely, though, that Linares will pursue a lightweight title unification fight against WBC world champion Mikey Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs). Garcia, of Moreno Valley, California, said Saturday following Showtime’s telecast of the Linares-Crolla rematch that he wants to face Linares in what would be a battle between three-division champions sometime this summer.
Flanagan’s fifth title defense against Petrov (38-4-2, 19 KOs) will headline a three-fight telecast on Warren’s new “Box Nation” channel April 8.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.