Linares, Welborn and Arnfield triumph in Manchester
A right hand can take you around the block but a jab can take you around the world. It’s said in boxing that everything starts and finishes with the jab. That was certainly true of this weekend’s events.
Marcus Morrison allowed Jason Welborn to drag him into a war from the very first bell on Saturday night. Whether Morrison was so confident about beating his first truly live opponent that he had no fear about taking on Welborn at his own game or whether he was just unprepared for the prospect of somebody absorbing his punches and firing back, he quickly found himself backed up against the ropes shipping punishment. Unable to contain Welborn at close quarters, Morrison (14-1, 10 KO’s) needed to concentrate on using his superior legs and spending as much time as possible fighting at distance by pinging Welborn with a hard, accurate jab. Instead, Welborn was able to walk right in through the front door time and time again.
When Morrison was able to retrieve some composure, his jab was fast and snappy but it was nowhere near heavy enough, accurate enough or consistent enough to keep Welborn at bay. Morrison showed tremendous courage to see the final bell but we didn’t get to see any of his other qualities because he just couldn’t stop Welborn from closing the distance. As Tony Bellew said on the night, he needed to use the jab as a weapon, not a rangefinder.
Given the right fights, Welborn (21-6, 7 KO’s) may yet make it third time lucky and claim a British title. Brought in to give Morrison some resistance and a few rounds of experience, the man from Dudley produced the performance of his career. Morrison has looked like a star in the making during his rise but now needs to spend some time in the gym working on how to impose his style on a fight.
Unbeaten light heavyweight Lyndon Arthur (5-0, 4 KO’s) quietly sauntered around ringside after Morrison’s defeat. Less than five miles across town and less than 24 hours earlier, Arthur had decimated Toni Bilic with a perfect jab. Arthur is making his early professional work look easy. The 25 year old from Moston has beaten a couple of Eastern European’s but also made short work of the durable Elvis Dube and Mitch Mitchell. The key to each victory has been a thudding, razor sharp jab. The former WSB competitor is moving silently towards titles. Keep your eyes on him.
Although Brian Rose (29-5-1, 8 KO’s) and Jack Arnfield (24-2, 6 KO’s) injected some spite into their middleweight Battle of Blackpool during the final days of the promotion, the expectation amongst those who have tracked both fighters careers was that that given the pride at stake, the good friends would resort to type and engage in a fencing match.
Both men sought to establish their jabs but, whether they were unwilling or unable, neither seemed to possess the ambition or imagination to build on it. Over the first half of the fight, the number of times either man stepped in behind the shot, doubled it or varied the speed and weight of the punch could be counted on one hand.
Around the midway point of the fight, it seemed to dawn on Arnfield that there was precious little coming back his way. Apart from the odd right hand counter from Rose, Arnfield was able to get close and step up his output. He pulled away over the second half of the fight.
Rose showed a surprising lack of urgency and variety in what could well prove to be a career threatening defeat. He managed to make Arnfield miss over the first five rounds but the solid jab that has carried him further than anybody expected just didn’t have the same effect on Saturday night. In the second half of the fight it didn’t even act as a deterrent. Rose has stated that he will return but faces a tough battle to reestablish himself and avoid becoming a stepping stone.
Arnfield will move on but given the nature of Saturday’s fight may make it difficult to entice a big name opponent into the ring immediately. If Tommy Langford vacates the British title, Arnfield seems ideally placed for a shot at the vacant belt.
Anthony Crolla’s right hand hasn’t taken him around the world, it has been his left hook to the body which has created headlines and lifted him to heights he could only have dreamt of. Darleys Perez and Ismael Barroso may have been crumpled by body shots but - for me - Crolla’s jab has always been his most important weapon. Hands high, walking forward and throwing his jab on the way back up from a little bounce, Crolla has pressured some world class operators into mistakes.
Jorge Linares’s right hand is one of the most dangerous weapons in world boxing. It has put him on top of the world four times over the years. Linares’ badly hurt Crolla with a right hand through the guard in their first fight last September, but it is a credit to Crolla’s jab that the Venezuelan’s major successes against the Mancunian have come when he has fired off lightening quick combinations or tempted Crolla into the line of fire of his uppercut. He hasn’t managed to detonate his right hand over the top of Crolla’s jab as regularly as he has other opponents throughout his career or in those brutal sparring videos he shares.
Linares might just be the most stylish fighter operating on the world scene at the moment but his blazing combinations and perfect footwork distract the eye – and likely the opponent’s concentration – from a brilliant jab. He manages to stop his opponents from closing the distance on him too easily by firing a lightening quick jab to the head or stabbing them to the body. The combinations and right hands he is able to run off his jab make up his highlight reel, but he creates his space and buys his time by using his jab. He spends a lot of time flicking and feints with the jab to draw leads and create openings for his counter punches. It is exciting to watch and his technique has even the toughest critics oohing and aaahing.
Linares (42-3, 27 KO’s) implemented his jab much better than Crolla (31-6-3, 13 KO’s) on Saturday night, making it difficult for Crolla to set his feet. When he did close the distance and manage to unload more than single punches, Linares made sure to counter with hard, clean punches to force Crolla back or buy himself a few precious inches. From there, it was back to his range and his rhythm. Linares - who holds the WBA title and is recognised as The Ring magazine champion - seems destined for another title unification with either WBO champion Terry Flanagan or WBC boss Mikey Garcia.
There is no shame in losing to a fighter of Linares’ calibre but Crolla has spent the best part of two years preparing for back to back world title fights and given his style, he could do with a break. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, a fight with Flanagan must surely be Crolla's target once he has recuperated and got back in the winners enclosure.