September 24, 2016 Anthony Crolla vs Jorge Linares at Manchester Arena (formerly M.E.N Arena), Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom for the WBA World lightweight title

Anthony Crolla loses WBA title to Jorge Linares in a star studded Manchester Arena
It was a battle of equals at the Manchester Arena as Anthony Crolla and Jorge Linares took on each other on Saturday night. However, like in any given contest, there had to be a winner at the end of it all and it is Linares who emerged so. The Venezuelan star was declared the victor by a unanimous verdict from the judges.

31 year old Linares beat his Mancunian opponent by scores of 115-114, 117-111 and 115-113. Their epic fight had failed to produce a definite winner even after stretching up to the 12th round and therefore only the judges’ scorecards could save the night. The pair had each been frantically seeking a knockout but to no avail.

A sterling show by Crolla

Even though the 29 year old Brit has conceded his WBA title to Linares, he has cemented his authority as a boxer who deserves a place only among the icons. He has shown the world that he is made of greatness by the manner in which he took on Linares inch to inch. It can only be said that the stars were not in his favor Saturday night.

No easy ride for Linares

The brand new WBA champion for sure didn’t have an easy ride with his English rival. He started with an edge over the Manchester native only to fumble in the middle before staging a comeback in the fading rounds of the match.

It wasn’t only Crolla’s title that was on the line Saturday evening, Linares’ WBC title had also been up for grabs. The Venezuelan boxer however put up a stellar performance to defend his title and deny Crolla a chance to be a Ring Magazine champion. He likewise dashed Crolla’s hopes of repeating the class act that his countryman Hatton had displayed in 2005.

British legendary boxer Ricky Hatton made history in 2005 by stopping the much feared Kostya Tszyu in the same arena. His fellow Mancunian had hope for a replica of the same in his prematch message to the press.

A star studded attendance

The ringside boasted of who is who in Saturday’s Crolla vs Linares fight. From Ricky Hatton himself and Tyson Fury to Manchester United stars Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, the Manchester Arena was for sure never in shortage of famous faces. Rooney and Carrick are longtime pals with Million Dollar who is himself an ardent Red Devils fans.

The boxer had earlier on during the day visited the Manchester United training camp and spoken with Rooney, Carrick, and Ashley Young prior to their EPL match against Leicester City. Nightfall was his footballer friends’ turn to show up and watch him do his thing. Rooney had been joined by his wife Coleen.

Also present at the fight were ring girls Sarah Beverly, Hannah Elizabeth and Miss Manchester 2016 Gabby Taylor.

Sensational music and grand entries

Sweet Caroline was blasted out of the speakers and crowd excitedly sang along to it just before the men of the night made their way in. The first one to walk in was Linares. He looked calm and confident. Tunes of The Pirates of the Caribbean theme song were drowned out by the crowd that was jeering at him.

Next to make entry was Crolla. The English sportsman looked relaxed as he bounced into the Arena amidst cheers from the crowd, most of which comprised of his supporters as he was the homeboy. The crowd was chanting out is name as he walked swaggeringly to the tunes of Seven Nation Army and Hometown Glory.

The walk ins were followed by the anthems and then it was time for the eagerly anticipated match to kick off.

Round 1

Crolla was the first to go in. He landed Linares a punch and a left hook to the body. Linares responded by pulling out an uppercut but he misses. He then hands Crolla a left hook to the body. The round ends with the Briton on his two feet and the Venezuelan down one feet. Critics are torn on who between the two has won this round.

Round 2

Linares is hurling out dangerous shots in this round. Crolla is struggling with speed but he quickly regains balance.

Round 3

Round 3 is unquestionably Linares’ to walk away with. He starts by dealing Crolla a body shot that sends him staggering backwards. He follows this by a one-two that also leaves his opponent struggling to be on his feet. Crolla manages to deal the three-weight champion a combination while at the same time taking an uppercut. A second uppercut leaves Million Dollar bleeding from the eye.

Round 4

Crolla has made a comeback in round 4. He is dictating the pace of the match. He hands Linares two powerful bodyshots and Linares responds with blows which are too low. This prompts the referee to intervene and the match stops for a moment. The match resumes and Linares is intent on throwing big shots but it is certainly the Englishman who flies the flag highest in this round.

Round 5

The round has a rather slow start. Linares has a cut on the face. Crolla has a high guard but Linares manages to land him a combination on the head. Crolla surges forward and tries pulling out speedy jabs. At this point, the Venezuelan is bleeding even more profusely and is consequently struggling to maintain composure. The bell rings to signify the end of the round.

Round 6

The tempo of the game has increased. Both men are throwing quick shots at each other. They are also both bleeding from the face. Crolla manages to send Linares to the ropes with a powerful bodyshot. His counterpart succeeds in coming off the ropes and lands Crolla a right hand that leaves him staggering on his feet. The bell however soon comes to his rescue.

Round 7

Crolla retreats to his own corner for a few seconds as the round opens. Linares must grateful to have a bit of time off. Crolla then comes attacking and lands El Niño de Oro a straight combination to the body. Linares responds with powerful counters from the ropes. Million Dollar manages to throw an overhand right just before the bell rings.

Round 8

Linares appears worn out, his combinations have less intensity. Crolla is in control. The pair trade shots and then Crolla suddenly throws a left hook to the body that makes his opponent back off for a while. Linares then deals him a fast combo that leaves him struggling for balance. The cut on the Venezuelan’s face starts to bleed again.

Round 9

Crolla tries to overpower Linares with well-calculated jabs but Linares responds with overhand rights. Crolla resumes his jabs and ends the round as the victor.

Round 10

Linares commences this round with gusto. He stage two right hand attacks on Crolla who manages to maintain balance. Linares then hurls a savage combo to the body and Crolla meets this with a right hook. Linares then deals him a right hand that leaves him struggling to be on steady feet as the round ends.

Round 11

Crolla is may need a stoppage or knock-downs at this point. Linares is staying on his feet and managing to attack well. Crolla misses most of his shots. Linares has retreated to his corner and is pretty comfortable there even as Crolla makes attacks.

Round 12

Crolla certainly needs a stoppage now. Linares is first and good. He manages to evade some of the miscalculated shots from his opponent. The round ends, all eyes on the judges now.

Linares is the champion

The judges flash their scorecards and it’s clear Linares is the new WBA champion as well as Ring Magazine champion. He also gets to keep his WBC lightweight title.

Linares on his victory

Linares has admitted that he is a fan of Million Dollar and that he would wish for a rematch with him. He said Saturday’s match was exciting and thanked the people of Manchester. He also admitted that the Brit had hurt his hand in the sixth round. He will be resuming gym workouts once his hand heals.

Crolla about his loss

Crolla has said that some few mistakes he made during the fight cost him the win. He has vowed to ensure he wins should he and Linares have a rematch. He has also hailed the Venezuelan as the best opponent he has ever been against.

A second Crolla-Linares

Crolla’s promoter Eddie Hearn has confirmed the possibility of a rematch between the iconic lightweight duo. He said a rematch is inevitable and that Crolla will dust himself up and upstage Linares in the second fight.

Meanwhile, there are boxing followers who feel the pair should not fight each other a second time but instead faces other opponents in unification fights. They are recommending a face off between Linares and WBC champion Dejan Zlaticanin and another one between Crolla and WBO champion Terry Flanagan. It remains to be seen whether this will be a possibility.

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