Glynn Evans delivers the lowdown on the Hall of Fame bound Venezuelan who fights live on BoxNation this weekend.
1) Jorge Luis Linares Palencia was born on 22nd August 1985 in the city of Barinas, west central Venezuela. He is 32-years-old. His elder brother Nelson was a globe-trotting pro Welterweight who went undefeated in 22 starts (one draw) between 2003-11. As an amateur, young Jorge was victorious in 89 of his 94 contests and bagged two national junior titles.
2) At the age of 17, WBA President and compatriot Gilberto Mendoza persuaded the prodigious talent to commence a pro career from the globally regarded Teiken Gym in Tokyo, Japan. (In Venezuela, you needed to be 18 to fight professionally). Over the next eight years, Linares was groomed by leading coach Sendai Tanaka who had previously worked with Marco Antonio Barrera, ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez and Edwin Valero.
On his debut in Osaka, the then Super-Bantam triumphed in just 45 seconds. Twenty-three of his 46 paid gigs have taken place in the Land of the Rising Sun and the bespectacled Linares speaks fluent Japanese. He has fought only four times in his birth land but has featured in Panama, Argentina, South Korea, the USA, Mexico and the UK, establishing himself as a World Champion in the very purest sense.
3) A three-weight, four-time World Champion, the bearded South American’s first three World Title wins were all for vacant thrones. In July 2007, aged 21, he collected the WBC Featherweight strap by dropping and stopping veteran Argentine warlord Oscar Larios in 10 on the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright undercard at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. 15 months after, ‘El Nino d’Oro (Golden Boy)’ added the WBA Super-Featherweight belt by bombing out homeboy Whyber Garcia in Panama City. However, he had to wait over six years to complete his hat-trick at Lightweight, snaring the WBC crown by icing Mexico’s Javier Prieto with a single right hand in round four in Tokyo.
4) A stellar 43-3 CV has taken the lightening Latino to the periphery of the world’s top ten pound-for-pound listings. He has triumphed in ten of the 12 World Title fights he has contested, and conquered five World Champions. Having successfully retained his 126 and 130lb belts once each, Linares is presently unbeaten in six consecutive 135lb World Title gigs. In a career exceeding 15 years, he has never been outpointed. His success has been founded on a classical jab, quick feet, even quicker fists, bewildering variety and heavy hands (27 early wins, including several ‘one shot’ count outs). He flogs his shredded 5ft 9in frame into optimal fighting condition and, as befits a road warrior, remains poised and composed in hostile terrain.
5) The main slight levelled against Linares is his perceived lack of durability. He has been carpeted and cut on multiple occasions and all three of his defeats came inside schedule. Reports suggest he was dumped as early as his second outing and he also capsized in his 15th start, a two-round demolition of Columbia’s Jean Javier Sotelo. In October 2009, Linares surrendered his 126lb crown to Mexico’s Juan Carlos Salgado in just 73 seconds!
Then, in the 2011-12 campaign, whilst serving as a sparhand to Manny Pacquiao and operating out of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood, Linares suffered back-to-back stoppage losses to Mexicans Antonio DeMarco (rsc11, vacant WBC Lightweight Title) and Sergio Thompson (rsc2). Londoner Kevin Mitchell also put him on his pants in the Venezuelan’s maiden Lightweight title defence at London’s O2 Arena in May 2015.
6) England has featured prominently in Linares’ recent career. Last July, Linares set up base in London to work with heralded Cuban coach Ismael Salas at David Haye’s Hayemaker facility on the capital’s South Bank.
In addition to that Fight of the Year contender with ‘Mighty’ Mitchell, - a test he selects as ‘the toughest fight of my career’ – the Roberto Diaz-managed Champion twice scalped WBA Champ Anthony Crolla by unanimous decision before manic crowds at the Manchester Arena in the 2016-17 season. Oscar De La Hoya, head honcho at Golden Boy Promotions with whom Linares has had a deal since 2009, was a ringside admirer.
In his latest start, Jorge squeaked past Hull’s 2012 Olympic champion Luke Campbell on a split after a dozen high grade rounds in Los Angeles.
7) Latterly, the generally humble and respectful Linares has taken to calling out Mikey Garcia and Vasyl Lomachenko in the hope of forcing a lucrative superfight. He shall certainly strengthen his hand if he can sparkle in this weekend’s HBO/BoxNation screened sixth defence against Mercito ‘No Mercy’ Gesta at LA’s Inglewood Forum. The 30-year-old Filipino southpaw has been mastered just once - to then IBF boss Miguel Vasquez – and is yet to be stopped in a 14 year career. With estranged coach Freddie Roach working the opposite corner, Linares has double reason to deliver another clinic.
Buy BoxNation to watch Jorge Linares v Mercito Gesta on January 27th.