Saturday night in Manchester, England, Jorge Linares came to Anthony Crolla’s hometown for the second time in six months and walked away with the WBC lightweight belt around his waist. His title-winning victory last September was decsive, but competitive. This time, Linares won in a rout.
All three judges gave Linares 10 of 12 rounds and he sent Crolla tumbling to the canvas in Round 7 with a jolting uppercut. Crolla made it to the final bell on guts alone.
With this win, Linares confirms that he is clearly the top fighter in the lightweight division not named Mikey Garcia. It has been nearly five years now since he has lost a fight and in the past two years he has defeated Kevin Mitchell and Crolla twice, by far the best three wins anybody has collected at 135 pounds during that time period.
It will be a true shame if 2017 comes to an end without Linares and Garcia meeting in the ring. Unless Vasyl Lomachenko moves up to 135 and Garcia fights him, there isn’t a better fight available for him, unless he moves up to 140 and challenges Terence Crawford.
Garcia has pound-for-pound potential. He won belts at 126 and 130 pounds before he turned 25. After a layoff of nearly 30 months, he returned to action in June 2016. Last January he knocked out Dejan Zlaticanin in Round 3, to capture the WBA lightweight belt.
Zlaticanin was undefeated prior to that bout, with very good wins over fighters like Ricky Burns and Petr Petrov. He was one of the top two or three fighters in the division and Garcia handled him with stunning ease.
It is a rare thing to see a fighter like Zlaticanin get demolished. Still not 30, Garcia is very much in his prime, carrying the same power at lightweight that he demonstrated as a rising talent at featherweight.
Someday, we will see Garcia in a superfight, against the likes of Lomachenko or Crawford. In the meanwhile, a bout with Linares would give him the opportunity to become a true world champion.