Anthony Crolla to take on Jorge Linares on September 24
Last Updated: 15/06/16 6:35am
WBA world lightweight champion Anthony Crolla will face WBC 'Diamond' champion Jorge Linares in a unification fight on September 24.
The showdown at the Manchester Arena, which also puts the coveted Ring Magazine world championship on the line. will be screened live on Sky Sports.
Crolla (31-4-3-KO13) seized the WBA title in November 2015 by stopping Darleys Perez and was back at the Manchester Arena for his maiden defence in May, weathering an early storm from Ismael Barroso before producing a clinical seventh-round finish.
Now he turns his attention to Linares (40-3-KO27), who was last seen on British shores when defending the WBC crown with an enthralling 10th-round stoppage of Kevin Mitchell. The rangy Venezuelan has since been stripped after a hand injury prevented him from facing mandatory challenger Dejan Zlaticanin, who won the vacant belt last weekend.
Crolla told Sky Sports: "When two of the best lightweights in the world want to fight and test themselves, it's natural.
"I'm so excited to have the chance to unify the division. Jorge is a fantastic fighter and it's another mountain to climb, but these are the tests that I thrive on and I've beaten two great fighters in Perez and Barroso and I'm confident that I can beat Jorge, too.
"I'm having to pinch myself after everything that's happened. I'm fighting the number one fighter in the division for the WBC 'Diamond', WBA and THE RING title; it doesn't get any better than this. I'm very proud and privileged to be able to bring this fight to Manchester.
"He's known to fight fans over here because of his fantastic fight with Kevin Mitchell, so it seemed a natural fight to make. Linares is a fantastic fighter. Technically, he's brilliant and I'm a fan of his. Like all fighters, though, he's got vulnerabilities and I plan to take advantage of those.
"I know how good Linares is technically - he's got great feet. I've watched and admired him for many years but I won't be overawed when I get in there. Respect will go out the window from that first bell.
"I know what a tough fight it will be but I'll make sure I'm in the best possible place to prove myself as the best lightweight in the world on the night. I've had a great opportunity handed to me here and I plan on taking it.
"He wouldn't be in that ring unless he was 100%. It'll be almost 12 months since his last fight by the time we fight which isn't ideal, but he's someone who looks after himself - you can see that from social media. I don't see that being a factor.
"I'm coming off two career-best performances. Before the first fight with Darleys Perez, I'd been out of the ring for a period of time but as long as you live a good life then I don't believe ring rust is an issue."
Linares, a three-weight world champion at featherweight, super-featherweight and lightweight, has only boxed once since stopping Mitchell.
He knocked Ivan Cano out in four rounds back in October and with his return to Britain still three months away, is convinced he will be defending his belt at full fitness.
"This is my first unification fight and a great personal challenge for me and my career," said Linares.
"Last year was an unbelievable year; I had the opportunity to fight in England against Kevin Mitchell in front of a crowd of passionate fight fans in one of the greatest fights of my career.
"This unification fight is another great opportunity for me to fight in England once more, to be in front of a strong fight fan base.
"Crolla is a very strong contender and I know with both our passions for the sport will deliver an exciting fight for all the fans in Manchester.
"I know that Crolla is coming off a victory against my fellow Venezuelan, so I am coming in with a lot of determination, pride and hunger for a victory."
The September fight will be the seventh time in succession Crolla has boxed at the Manchester Arena, topping the bill on four world title nights.
Linares has fought professionally in no fewer than eight countries but the local hero 'Million Dollar' is expecting his support to be even bigger and more boisterous than usual.
He added: "Last time, it was a special atmosphere but this time we are going to top that. I really believe that.
"I hope people want to be part of that atmosphere because I'm very fortunate the way they come out. This time will be an even better atmosphere and hopefully it'll be another memorable night.
"Linares has seen a lot but he won't have experienced anything like this."