One of the best boxing matches of 2016 will get its sequel on Saturday as lightweight titlist Jorge Linares returns to Anthony Crolla’s hometown of Manchester, England, to defend the belt he won last September.
Linares (41-3, 27 KOs), a native of Venezuela who fights out of Japan, fought through a right hand injury to edge Crolla (31-5-3, 13 KOs) by close unanimous decision in their first meeting. Both men overcame cuts in an all-action fight with definitive swings of momentum between the top two fighters at 135 pounds.
The rematch for the WBA title will take place at Manchester Arena and air in the United States on Showtime (6 p.m. ET). WBC titleholder Mikey Garcia will be an interested observer when he joins the Showtime broadcast team as guest analyst from a studio in New York.
Garcia (36-0, 30 KOs), who like Linares has won world titles in three divisions,after returning last year from a two-year exile because of a lengthy battle with former promoter Top Rank. But first he would like to handle his business at lightweight and has plenty of interest in facing Saturday’s winner.
“I want to unify the titles and be able to claim supremacy that I’m the top champion at lightweight,” Garcia told CBS Sports. “The WBC has ordered that the winner of this fight between Linares and Crolla would be mandated to fight me. Everybody saw [their first fight] was a close, competitive fight. I also felt Linares did enough to take the fight. I expect the next match to be fought at that same level, that same intensity.”
Crolla, 30, who knocked out Darleys Perez in their 2015 rematch to win the title before losing it in September, exercised his rematch clause with Linares and believes things will play out differently the second time around.
Linares vs. Crolla Fight Card
Jorge Linares (c)…