Anthony Crolla is beaten by Jorge Linares on a unanimous decision
Last Updated: 26/09/16 12:00pm
Anthony Crolla's incredible climb to the top came to a halt when he lost a unanimous points decision to the classy Jorge Linares in Manchester.
Crolla put everything in to a flowing and fearsome fight at the Manchester Arena but ultimately lost his WBA world lightweight title and missed out on the coveted vacant Ring Magazine belt.
Linares is now definitely the top lightweight in the world, silencing an emotionally charged crowd even before the scores of 115-114, 117-111 and 115-113 were read out.
The opening round saw Linares (41-3-KO27) stamp his class on Crolla, his left uppercut and three-punch combinations were expected and a left-right under the ribs showed he was never going to make a slow start.
Crolla (31-5-3-KO13) kept pressing in the second, taking another bodyshot and another uppercut and although 'Millon Dollar' responded it was the Venezuelan who was in front, the third round going his way with a beautiful and bruising five-punch combination ending with a crisp right to the temple.
Typically, Crolla came out firing in the fourth, two rights upstairs sandwiched by a left bodyshot of his own gave him some momentum. Linares' counter-punching was a constant threat although when he had him in a corner, the Mancunian felt he was caught with one below the waistband, and referee Terry O'Connor stepped in.
It happened again, the official warning came and by the end of the fifth round, Crolla seemed to be edging back into it, a left-right-left and an overhand right seeming to shake the three-weight world champion for the first time.
Linares regained his composure in the sixth and seventh, the right uppercut and another right really troubling Crolla, only for an overhand right in response to suggest we were already heading to the scorecards.
Crolla had different ideas though, faring far better in the seventh as Linares looked to be tiring and was caught in the corner again, suffering several clean shots. But it was another shift in the eighth with a stunning five-punch combination from the Venezuelan that saw his class return.
There was a general drop in pace in the eighth as both seemed to have given it everything but Crolla was the next to pop in the better shots. The occasional clinical left-right and a trio of unanswered rights at the end of the 10th again reaffirmed the edge and experience of Linares.
The 11th saw more of the same, Crolla trying but almost knowing he had six minutes to come up with the sort of stunning success that even he could not manage.
He kept pressing, he kept pushing but Linares kept countering, even jabbing on his way back and at times in the penultimate round, he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his second trip to the United Kingdom.
Both ended on the offensive and with cuts above their eyes but it was there for all to see that Crolla's sensational rise had been reined in by a quality operator, who had gone the full 12 rounds for the first time.
"It was close," Crolla told Sky Sports. "You work hard. I've got no complaints. I'll watch it back. I made a few mistakes and walked onto a few sharp counters. I'm disappointed in that and I'm disappointed I couldn't win those belts for Manchester.
"He rocked my world. I'm not going to lie. My head's still spinning now. I'm in great condition and that's what pulled me through it. It's a pleasure to share the ring with a great like Linares.
"He's the best fighter I've shared the ring with. I came so close to beating him so it shows I belong at that level. A few mistakes can cost you dearly and that's what happened tonight. I'm gutted."