By Elliot Foster
Jorge Linares walks away with all the marbles.
The Venezuelan was deservedly handed the victory over Anthony Crolla over 12 rounds, exclusively live on Sky Sports.
Linares advances to 41-3 (27 KOs) with the victory, after which he travels home with Crolla’s WBA crown, the WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine belts to become the king at lightweight at the Manchester Arena.
Crolla deserves credit for his part of the bargain in what was a sensational contest –– with many demanding that we see it again –– and the fans both at ringside and watching at home were served up an absolute treat.
Despite several warnings for low blows throughout the fight, and with having Crolla, who slips to 31-5 (13 KOs) in defeat, hurt in the sixth round, Linares was awarded the fight by all three ringside judges via margins of 115-114, 117-111 and 115-113.
Both fighters reacted to the result, with the victor saying that there should be a rematch, once the right hand has healed, and Crolla issuing his apologies for failing to bring back all the marbles for his beloved city of Manchester.
In the interview with Sky Sports after the fight, Linares confirmed that he hurt his right hand –– which is the same hand that the was out injured with last year –– in the sixth round.
“Thank you,” he told Andy Scott. “Thank you all the people in Manchester. Anthony Crolla once told me he’s a fan of mine. I’m a fan of his.
“We gave the fans a beautiful fight and we can do it again. I hurt my hand in the sixth. I backed off a bit, worked on strategy. I told my corner in the 10th round that I was going to go and close the last three and I think that’s what got me the victory.
“I hurt him a couple of times. I saw him rock. I didn’t want to be too aggressive and go forward too much. I felt really good and I was ready.
“First, I want to take a good break, see how my hand heals. Then I’ll go to the gym and then maybe I’ll come back to England and maybe to Manchester. I love it here. Anthony Crolla deserves a rematch.”
Crolla, meanwhile, was obviously devastated. He said: “It was close. You work hard. I’ve got no complaints. I’ll watch it back.
“I made a few mistakes and walked onto a few sharp counters. I’m disappointed in that and I’m disappointed I couldn’t win those belts for Manchester.
“He rocked my world. I’m not going to lie. My head’s still spinning now. I’m in great condition and that’s what pulled me through it. It’s a pleasure to share the ring with a great like Linares.
“He’s the best fighter I’ve shared the ring with. I came so close to beating him so it shows I belong at that level. A few mistakes can cost you dearly and that’s what happened tonight.
“I’m gutted but the way this city turned out, I’ve got to make sure I win a rematch. It’s something I’m so thankful for.”