Boxing is all about levels and, without in any way wishing to disrespect the incredibly brave and courageous (in and out of the ring) Anthony Crolla, Jorge Linares proved last night in his rematch with Crolla that he is a top level fighter of the highest order, a far, far better boxer than Crolla.
The question is, can Linares become a great fighter? It seems a very long time ago now that the 31 year-old WBA lightweight ruler was shocked to defeat by Juan Carlos Salgado and then by Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson. It was 2012 when Linares last tasted defeat and he may well be at his absolute best right now.
After comprehensively outboxing and out-scoring Crolla, the Venezuelan, after first giving Crolla plenty of credit for hanging in there, called out both Vasyl Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia. Either fight would be huge; whether it would be super-featherweight king Lomachenko stepping up in weight to face Linares, or WBC lightweight champ Garcia agreeing to a unification fight with Linares.
Linares, 42-3(27) and winner of his last 11, has gone on record as saying he feels he can beat both Lomachenko and Garcia. A superb boxer, Linares more than deserves the chance to prove it. After having boxed in the UK three times recently – last night, his first fight with Crolla last September and before that his thriller with Kevin Mitchell in May of 2015 – Linares might be set to fight on a big stage in Vegas or elsewhere.
The idea of Lomachenko matching his considerable skills and boxing brain with those of Linares really does cause excitement, as does the notion of a Garcia-Linares fight.
Both Lomachenko and Garcia looked brilliant in their most recent fights, and Linares would really have to go some to beat either man. But Linares wants to fight the best and he may just be the best lightweight in the world right now. The best versus the best, this is what the sport of boxing is, or should be, all about. Fighters like Linares recognise this.