Jorge Linares is one of the unique figures in boxing, a throwback to a time when the sport wasn’t as compartmentalized as it is now.
These days, the major promoters in the U.S. are each aligned with a different television network and there isn’t a lot of cross-pollination. If you’re with Top Rank and fight on ESPN, you tend to stay with Top Rank and fight on ESPN. If you’re with the PBC and fight on Showtime, you tend to stay on Showtime and face other PBC fighters.
Linares, though, is a world traveler and has been since he burst onto the scene with an impressive featherweight-title-winning effort over Oscar Larios more than a decade ago.
He’s one of the most entertaining fighters in the world, and the fact he’s not a household name in the U.S. is more a function of the sorry state of the boxing business here than it is at all about him.
Linares, who will defend his WBA lightweight belt on Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California, against Mercito Gesta in a bout to be televised live on HBO, has done his part to make himself a star.
A Venezuelan by birth who now lives in the great fight city of Las Vegas, Linares has taken the term “world champion” quite literally. He’s fought in eight countries on four continents and has established himself as a can’t-miss fighter.
He’s got potential big fights with super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko and WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia and, like the warrior he is, quickly says yes when asked if he’d fight the two pound-for-pound greats.
Saturday’s show is being promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, which is an odd coincidence because Linares shares a nickname as well as a fighting style with GBP founder Oscar De La Hoya. Linares is known as “El Nino de Oro,” which is Spanish for Golden Boy.
“This is one of the best fighters in the world and his time is now, and he wants the big fights,” Golden Boy president Eric Gomez said. “Gesta is somewhat of a tune-up fight, but again, Gesta is also a very good fighter. He only has one loss and he’s trained by Freddie Roach. If there is one thing in my career in boxing, it’s that you can never bet against Freddie Roach.
“I think [Linares is] very similar [to De La Hoya]. Symmetrically, when you watch him, he’s beautiful to watch. He keeps his distance and works his distance well, which is one of the things you see in a lot of the great fighters. You saw it in Oscar. You saw it in Mayweather and Pacquiao. They know how to control the distance, where they can hit you and you can’t hit them. That’s one of the most beautiful things about Jorge Linares. His footwork is incredible. It’s like he’s floating above the ring in there.”
He’s fought in the U.S., England, Japan, Venezuela, South Korea, Panama, Argentina and Mexico. His travels have taken him far and wide, and he says he’d love to fight in both Australia and Africa, two of the continents he has yet to fight in.
His travels, he said, have helped him to become a better professional.
“When you go around and you see what other fighters do to get ready and prepare, you pick up things and I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to have a lot of varied experiences,” Linares said. “I’ve taken bits and pieces from all these different fighters and styles I’ve seen, and the No. 1 thing, I think, is that I realize it’s important to try to adapt and to always strive to get better.
“I’ve always told my handlers to get me the biggest fights and the fights that will mean the most and get the most attention. This is a world-wide sport, and so sometimes you have to travel to be where the fights are. It’s not a big thing. I see it as an opportunity.”
A win over Gesta will lead to a lot of speculation about his future. He said he’d love to face Lomachenko, considered by some to be the best overall fighter in the world, as well as Garcia.
He said a match with Lomachenko “is one of my most desired fights.” Getting a deal done with Top Rank, Lomachenko’s promoter, will be the hard part.
The easy part is getting Linares’ approval to go forward.
“Everything is better when you fight the best fights,” he said. “Every time I fight, I try to showcase the best of my abilities and when you have an opponent who is so talented like those guys, it brings the best out of you. I know that’s what the people like and it’s what I want to do.”
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