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Anthony Crolla vs. Jorge Linares Pick

Anthony Crolla vs. Jorge Linares Fight Preview and Prediction to Win
When: Saturday, September 24, 2016
Where: Manchester Arena, Manchester, England
Weight Class: Lightweights: 12 Rounds
Titles: WBA and WBC World Lightweight Title
By Loot, Boxing Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Anthony Crolla, 31-4-3 (13 KOs), Manchester, England
Vs.
Jorge Linares, 40-3 (27 KOs), Venezuela/Japan

Betting Odds: Anthony Crolla -140, Jorge Linares +100

Anthony Crolla will defend his WBA lightweight title against WBC champion Jorge Linares in Crolla's hometown of Manchester on September 24. This is a top-flight and evenly-matched 135-pound title fight, one where any number of outcomes appears to be viable. The reigning WBA champion Crolla is on a nice run of late, coming off consecutive knockout wins in title fights. He faces his most-talented foe to date in WBC kingpin Linares, who has won nine straight and his last 4 by knockout.

Crolla, 29, has an interesting story. He worked himself into contender status and just as he was about to bear the fruits of his labor, he was seriously wounded while chasing burglars who had robbed his neighbor. The valiant act put his career in peril, but he bounced right back and in a title shot in 2015, he fought to a draw with Darleys Perez. A rematch a few months later saw Crolla stop Perez in the 5th round to win the still-vacant strap. He defended it with a KO of unbeaten and hard-hitting Ismael Barroso. It wasn't an easy road to this spot for Crolla, but he now finds himself on the verge of big things if he can score the high-quality defense against the well-credentialed Linares.

Linares, 30, is from Venezuela, but has spent much of his career fighting out of Japan. He is a multi-dimensional fighter who has a great offense. The other parts of his game are more of an issue. He is somewhat reminiscent of Amir Khan. His offense suggests a fighter for the ages, but he was stopped in all three of his losses. His first loss back in '09 to Juan Salgado was a first-round loss where Linares was caught cold. His other two losses came to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson, fights where he was having success until being cut, which played a role in both of those defeats.

Other than those three setbacks, Linares has enjoyed some success. He won the WBC lightweight crown in 2014 and has since defended it twice, once in England with a 10th round stoppage of England's Kevin Mitchell. So he's shown he can travel to the UK and win big fights before. This is really a critical juncture in Linares' career. He needs to start posting big wins to put himself in a position to do some of the things that his talent suggests he can do. After some rough times, he's also on a nice roll and will be awfully tough to derail.

Linares does have that brittle skin, which has cost him before. With Crolla's mauling and brawling style, it's not hard to envision Linares getting cut. But Crolla has to worry about a lot more than that. Linares is awfully slick and well-coordinated—a very athletic lightweight. He throws punches in seamless fashion and in swift combination. He maintains a nice work-rate in the ring and his punches are delivered with suddenness, speed, and power. When it comes to offense, he is an explosive type of fighter. He has good knowledge of ring geometry, as he works the angles and maintains good movement without running. Linares is a well-rounded and experienced fighter with a lot of speed and power. He ambushes opponents with speedy leads and Crolla will really have his hands full.

Crolla will be well-advised to try and smother Linares' punches and has shown himself capable of the high level of energy that strategy would require. Crolla is reminiscent of those pressure fighters from a bygone era. They were in your face working hard all night, though they weren't particularly deadly punchers—guys like Carmen Basilio or Jake LaMotta. Whether he will one day be in that classification or not remains to be seen. He is a straightforward, no-nonsense type of battler. He applies a lot of pressure and anyone who wants to beat Crolla will need to bring a lunch.

Crolla is very lively in the ring and has a lot of pluck. He brings a lot of energy into the ring. He has nice head movement as he works his way inside, but he is rather squared-up and an available target for a sharp-shooter like Linares. His hands are up high and he moves his head, but he's not terribly slick. He's just a determined and capable guy who fought hard to get to this spot after a rocky road in and out of the ring. A fighter like Crolla relies a lot on emotion and fighting in his hometown should give him a measurable boost. But keep in mind that with Linares, we're talking about a guy who has shown he can win on the road.

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Not to impugn Crolla's work, but in getting to this championship position, he beat a pair of unproven South Americans with big KO records who may or may not be all that world class. Against more recognizable names within his own context, the results are mixed. Granted, Crolla has improved, but he fought a technical draw with well-traveled Mexican vet Gamaliel Diaz in 2014, beat aging Gavin Rees by majority decision, and was TKO'd and fought a draw with perennial British contender Derry Matthews. When watching him, he looks better, but his current placement is also dependent on the matchmaking and in that regard, his status may eclipse his actual merit by just a tad.

Linares has developed a certain veteran steeliness that has been hardened over a 14-year pro career. He has knowledge of other styles and more awareness of himself. He knows how to navigate out of trouble and how to be more prudent offensively. In the talent department, he is superior to Crolla. It's not often that you'll get a fighter with such an advantage in talent at an underdog price. But Crolla is dogged, the kind of all-night nightmare that can give a more-delicate Linares all kinds of problems. And the site certainly favors Crolla. I just can't get away from the notion that Linares is simply a cut above and that's somehow going to be enough to see him through. I'm taking Linares.

Loot's Pick to Win the Fight: I'm betting on Jorge Linares at +100. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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