When boxing's best "road warriors" are discussed, Jorge Linares' name should be in the mix. That's because the Venezuela native has succeeded at world level despite having fought away from home in 41 of his 45 pro fights and just once since July 2010. He won his first world title in Las Vegas (KO 10 Oscar Larios for the vacant WBC featherweight title), his second in Panama City (KO 5 Whyber Garcia for the vacant WBA super featherweight belt), his third in Japan (KO 4 Javier Prieto for the vacant WBC lightweight belt) and his fourth in England (W 12 Anthony Crolla for Crolla's WBA lightweight title).
Meanwhile, Luke Campbell, who won several international amateur titles away from England, won his Olympic gold medal before his home fans in London in 2012 and is fighting in the U.S. for only the second time in his pro career (KO 2 Steve Trumble on the Kell Brook-Shawn Porter undercard). How will the lanky lefty cope with the absence of rapturous applause as well as the most skilled the experienced fighter he has yet faced? We shall soon see.
Linares has won 11 straight since back-to-back KO losses to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson, and he has done so with the blend of speed, power and technique that moved some experts to declare him boxing's next great superstar. In the eight CompuBox tracked fights compiled during his current streak, Linares has done it with superior volume (62.7 per round to his foes' 53.8), better jabbing (33.1 thrown/5.3 connects per round to 22.1 thrown/2.7 connects per round for his foes), more frequent hitting (19 total connects per round to their 11.7) and especially more precise power hitting (46% to 28%).
Because Campbell is a southpaw, Linares' past performances bear mentioning. He has not fought a lefty in three-and-a-half years and has faced three since July 2009 -- Josafat Perez, Antonio DeMarco and, most recent, Nihito Awakawa. In his 12 tracked fights against right-handers, he's performed well. He's thrown more (63.5 per round to 58.6), landed more (19.1-12.7 per round overall, 6.4-2.7 landed jabs per round, 12.7-9.9 power connects each round) and did so much more accurately (30%-22% overall, 19%-12% jabs, 42%-28% power). Against the three lefties, Linares throws fewer punches (52 per round to their 48.6) but the numerical spreads are even wider (20.9-9.7 total connects per round, 5.3-1.7 jab connects each round, 15.6-8 landed power shots per round and percentage gaps of 40%-20% overall, 26%-9% jabs and 49%-28% power).
A caveat: None of the three southpaws are jab-oriented technical boxers like Campbell, but the closest one to the trio in terms of style -- DeMarco -- only found success when he went for broke in round 11 after being thoroughly out-boxed over the first 10 rounds.
Campbell didn't turn pro until two months before his 26th birthday, so many elements of his amateur style remain deeply ingrained. The most obvious manifestation is his emphasis on the jab. The typical lightweight averages 60.2 punches per round, of which 24.1 are jabs -- a 60-40 split in favor of power shots. In his three CompuBox-tracked fights against Argenis Mendez (W 12), Derry Mathews (KO 4) and Darleys Perez (KO 9); Campbell averaged 63.4 punches and 38.3 jabs per round -- a 60-40 split in favor of jabs. Against his three best opponents to date, that approach has worked out well as he nearly doubled his opponents' total punches per round (13.2 vs. 6.8) and jabs (3.5 vs. 2.0) while more than doubling their power connects per round (9.8 vs. 4.8). However, one potentially fatal flaw is that while he jabs often, he doesn't do so accurately. In his three bouts he landed a combined 9.1% of his jabs, including 7.2% against Perez and 8.3% against Mathews (he landed 11.3% against Mendez). Campbell has compensated with precise power punching (38% vs. Mendez, 48% vs. Mathews and 36% against Perez) but if he is to maximize his height and reach advantages (one inch and two inches respectively) he must do a better job with the jab.
Inside the Numbers
Linares (in his last 6 fights) landed 44.7% of his power shots despite landing just 15.6% of his 30.1 jabs thrown per round. Linares opponents landed just 22.3% of their total punches and just 28.5% of their power shots. Campbell is busy (63.4 per round in his last 3 fights) and landed 39% of his power shots, but landed just 9.8 per round. 38.3 of his 63.4 punches (60.4%) are jabs. Campbell opponents landed just 24.7% of their power punches- look for Linares to add significantly higher.
Linares has struggled most against physical fighters who disrupt his highly technical and patient approach. Campbell is, by nature, a careful points-oriented boxer who uses his fencing jab to set up sudden power strikes down the middle and surprisingly effective body shots. There's a reason for that: Campbell was floored by Mendez in round two and, in his only loss to Yvan Mendy, was knocked down in the fifth. Linares definitely has the power to exploit that weakness in Campbell. Campbell's jab could wreak havoc with Linares' cut-prone eyes but history suggests he won't land it often enough to do significant damage. Thus, the guess here is that Linares will methodically cut the distance between them, exert his all-around technical expertise and land enough firepower to pound out a unanimous decision.