By Steve Bateson:
Jorge Linares produced a near flawless and dominant display as he recorded a unanimous victory over Anthony Crolla in Manchester, retaining the WBC, WBA and Ring Lightweight Championships. It was a re-match of their November bout in which Linares dethroned Crolla and tonight Linares was even more classy, dropping Crolla in the seventh en route to an indisputable victory. The Venezuelan picked up the first six rounds with his fabulous combination punching, crunching shots to the body of Crolla and uppercuts that snapped the hometown fighter’s head back constantly. Crolla, as always, was tough and brave but he was no match for Linares, who was supported by promoter Oscar De La Hoya at ringside. In the seventh round it was a left uppercut from nowhere that took Crolla’s legs from under him and seemingly spelled the end of the fight. He rose, unsteadly, and blinked back blood from a cut over his eye but refused to quit and even ended the round on the front foot. "Million Dollar" then, arguably, had his two best rounds in 8-9 as Linares seemed stunned and a little tired but Crolla was unable to find a punch to swing the momentum back in his favour. Linares’ hand speed and footwork was impeccable, he made Crolla miss time and again, and there are no doubts he is one of the best names in the 135lbs division.
There are no doubts Anthony Crolla, at only 30, can come again and make another assault on the world scene. There are many who would still like to see a battle of Manchester with the current WBO Champion, Terry Flanagan. For Linares it has to be Mikey Garcia for the true WBC Championship and undoubtedly the moniker of best Lightweight on the planet. Scorecards read: 118-109 x3
Jack Arnfield outpointed Brian Rose in what was billed as the "Battle of Blackpool", retaining the WBA International Middleweight strap. There were fireworks between the former sparring partners at the head to head weigh on Friday but neither fighter carried that same fire into the contest, it won’t live long in the memory of those who witnessed it. There was barely a punch to report through the first few rounds but Rose seemed to be landing the more cleaner work as we headed toward halfway. The younger Arnfield began to up the ante and was scoring points off his higher tempo but Rose was not deterred and stuck to his task, manfully. It was difficult to separate them into the championship rounds, so many of the early rounds were close and deprived of action, but Arnfield appeared the fresher, bloodying the nose of Rose toward the final stanza. There may be calls from Rose’s camp for a re-match but nobody else will want to see it again, Arnfield will certainly be looking for another assault on the British title scene. Scorecards read: 115-113, 115-113, 116-112
Katie Taylor’s impressive professional career continued with a eight round decision of Bulgaria’s Milena Koleva. Koleva was down in the seventh after a solid left hook stunned her, the subsequent attack left her on the deck but she showed guts to get back up and see the fight out to the final bell. I’ve waxed lyrical about Taylor’s ability before and this fight was no different, the Olympic superstar is destined for greatness in the paid ranks. Her combination punching is devastating, she works the body flawlessly, and after only four professional fights there is no doubt she could go the full championship distance. Petrova is a former world title challenger and was game throughout but was no match for Taylor’s stunning arsenal. The referee scored the fight: 80-72
Marcus Morrison’s career suffered a blow as Jason Welborn inflicted his first defeat, scoring a surprise unanimous decision over the Manchester Middlweight, picking up the WBC Silver title in the process. This was billed as a "step up" for Morrison, Welborn was expected to be a walkover, and he started well, dropping Welborn in the second round but Welborn’s relentless pressure kept him in the bout and he took over from the third round onward. Morrison’s nose appeared broken and the referee looked set to step in and stop his punishment on several occasions but the fight did reach the final bell. Morrison showed guts and bravery but this may be the classic example of a fighter not being tested enough on their rise through the ranks, struggling as soon as they meet an opponent who doesn’t fall over in the heat of battle. The Joe Gallagher trained fighter can come again, of course, but he is going to need plenty of recovery time and a fresh lease of confidence. For Welborn this is a new boost for his career and there will be opportunities aplenty for him in a domestically stacked Middleweight division. In all seriousness, and from a personal point of view the corner of Marcus Morrison should have stopped this fight around the 6-7 mark, he took an unnecessary beating in this one. Scorecards read: 96-93, 96-93, 97-92
Undefeated, Martin J Ward was pushed all the way to the wire by Maxi Hughes but edged out a unanimous points decision in their British Super Featherweight clash. It was the third meeting between the two fighters (one win for Ward and a draw) and through the first six rounds it was extremely difficult to separate them, only in the latter half did Ward’s superior conditioning and accuracy begin to tell. Ward was the cleaner and more impressive boxer but Hughes was always on the front foot and was able to expose big gaps in the defense of Ward. As Hughes began to slow and fade toward the championship rounds it allowed Leeds’ Ward to step up and take control, picking off his opponent in a much more impressive fashion than earlier in the bout. Ward needs one more defense of the British title to win the Lonsdale belt outright and then he may chose to look forward and at the European strap. Ward also picked up the WBC International bauble as well. Scorecards read: 116-112, 118-111, 116-113
Former British Light Heavyweight Champion, Hosea Burton returned to action since his devastating twelfth round KO defeat last December against Frank Buglioni. Burton recorded a straightforward eight round decision over Tamas Kozma. Burton will have one eye on getting back into domestic contention by the summer. Scores read: 80-71
Ben Sheedy moved to 6-0 with a shutout points victory over Rob Brown. The Manchester Middleweight may be looking toward an area title by the years’ end.
Newport’s Sean McGoldrick made his debut at Bantamweight with a comfortable four round decision over Brett Fidoe. Scores read: 40-36