Linares dethroned but reputation enhanced

Lee Gormley
21/05/2018 6:41pm

Jorge Linares enhanced his reputation in defeat nine days ago against Vasyl Lomachenko, argues Lee Gormley...

“Before the fight, all boxers talk trash, but after the fight, nobody comes to the press conference. After this fight, I want to see Jorge Linares at the press conference, and I want to hear what he has to say.”

Vasyl Lomachenko confidently outlined his desires well before heading into his captivating battle with Jorge Linares at a rapturous Madison Square Garden nine days ago.

The Ukrainian maestro had forced his four prior opponents into submission, systematically breaking them down both physically and mentally in the ring and causing a no-show at subsequent media meetings, as a result of the embarrassment sustained during those dominant victories.

Jorge Linares was no such opponent. The Venezuelan may have been stopped in the tenth round of an enthralling bout at the Mecca of Boxing from a sickeningly accurate liver shot, but he showed up with his head held high.

Arriving at the press conference, a bloodied and bruised Linares took his seat alongside Top Rank promoter Bob Arum. Far from disgraced, the South American’s badly swollen eyes were hid behind his thick black shades, reflecting the blinding flash of the cameras capturing these moments after a first career loss since 2012.

“I have all the respect for him. Vasyl you did a great job, you did your work, I did my work and the fans came out winning tonight,” outlined Linares, visibly defiant in spite of his latest setback.

The 32-year-old was written off from the moment this enticing lightweight match-up was announced for the Big Apple, but Linares in no way bit off more than he could chew. Yes, he was dethroned on his latest American venture, losing grip of his WBA crown, but ‘El Nino de Oro’ still shone bright and lost nothing more than his belt in defeat.

Lomachenko was widely expected to completely outgun Linares, and the two-time Olympic Gold amateur medallist turned three-weight professional world champion did indeed prove his unrivalled class, but his challenger enjoyed many moments of success during the heat of battle.

Linares was admirably able to tame the threat of ‘Loma’s’ dangerous side-stepping and pivoting, a mastered trait which has led to a destructive end for former foes, but he was incapable of completely neutralising him. But then again, who can?

For the first time in the paid ranks, Lomachenko was sent crashing to the canvas by Linares, with a superbly-timed right hand down the middle, surprisingly catching ‘Hi-Tech’ off-guard. Such a moment added to the drama that was unfolding at MSG, with the crowd, and particularly those in support of the then defending champion, being sent into a frenzy at the sight of Linares standing proudly over his fallen challenger.

The intriguing clash in front of over 10,000 passionate fight fans was a far-cry from ‘Loma’s’ previous ring outings, which resulted in opponents quitting or being pulled out on their stools.

Linares was the dance partner the relentlessly-driven Ukrainian had been searching for, one who brought the best out of him, having previously declared “it’s not good for me” when opponents give up.

“It’s not good for boxing. Boxing, it’s a war. It’s a very, very brutal sport, and if you come in the ring, then you need to be willing to die in the ring. If you can’t die, you’re out,” the newly crowned three-division titlist had admitted before achieving his impressive feat.

For ‘Loma’, the admiration continues to pour in, with those witnessing his greatness and the wizardry he brings to the ring at the height of his powers becoming stuck for praise to fully justify the sheer boxing brilliance unfolding in front of them.

The widely regarded pound-for-pound number one has the opportunity to cement his place in history as one of the true greats in such an incredibly short space of time, with his stature in the grand scheme of the sport growing with each passing masterclass.

As for Linares, no credibility was lost in coming up short in New York. He didn’t quit. ‘The Golden Boy’ gave it his all in the squared-circle, just as he had promised, and delivered a performance worthy of acclamation.

The storied career of Linares won’t come to an end at the hands of Lomachenko. Instead this reverse will be seen as just another setback to bounce back from for the stylish and technically accomplished three-weight champion.

‘The King’ may have been dethroned at the hands of a more than worthy successor, but Linares only bolstered his reputation for whatever lies ahead with such a gallant defence of his former crown.