A few hours after suffering his fourth consecutive defeat, this last one by wide decision against English Jack Catterall last Saturday, Jorge Luis “El Niño de Oro” Linares, the 38-year-old Venezuelan veteran fighter, former WBC featherweight, WBA-WBC super featherweight and WBC lightweight world champion, who is undoubtedly one of the best boxers in the history of the sport in his homeland, said goodbye to the discipline where he shone professionally since December 15, 2002, when he started the amateur sector, at the age of 13-14 years old.
Linares, who left his final record at 47-9-0, 29 kos, was looking to add another belt to his lustrous record last Saturday, the World Association Intercontinental, however Catterall halted his aspirations without major problems in a 12-round fight that disappointed the crowd at Liverpool’s Echo arena, which constantly booed the contenders.
In the end, all three scorecards favored the home fighter, whose record stood at 28-1-0, 13 kos. The judges of the bout, Britain’s Steve Gray, Ukraine’s Olena Polyvalio and Italy’s Giuseppe Quartarone delivered scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112, respectively.
UNA BRIILLANTE TRAYECTORIA
The three previous performances of the fighter, born in Barinas, Venezuela, on August 22, 1985, resulted in discouraging setbacks.
In May 2020 he lost by DU to Californian Devin Haney, who knocked him down twice in the 12th round for the WBC super lightweight belt. Then, in February 2022, the Russian Zaur Abdulaiev dominated him on points in Ekaterinburg and, in December of the same year, the Armenian Zhora Amarzayan defeated him by decision in 10.
Those three gray demonstrations suggested that Linares would have difficulties against a fighter on the rise like Catterall, and what happened in Liverpool proved the experts right.
But in truth, those opaque performances only cast faint shadows on Linares’ glittering career, who is, unless proven otherwise, the most universal Venezuelan boxer in history.
In fact, in his extensive career of more than two decades, the Venezuelan (who received the nickname of “El Niño de Oro” (The Golden Boy) from the Argentine Amilcar Brussa, lifelong trainer of the legendary Carlos Monzon), took his name to dozens of stages in different countries and confronted opponents of no less than 16 nationalities.
Among them are English, Armenian, Russian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Ukrainian (Vasyl Lomachenko the best known, who defeated him in May 2018 at the Madison in New York), Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Korean, Argentine, Panamanian, Japanese and American opponents, among those we remember.
As far as we know, no other fighter from the South American country has crossed gloves with opponents from so many other latitudes.
In Venezuela he appeared only 4 times. In the first one he won a decision against the Argentine Hugo Soto, for the WBA Fedelatin super bantamweight belt on January 31, 2004 and then he defeated in 4 rounds the Colombian Jesus Perez in the Military Circle of Maracay, on August 13, 2005; the Dominican Francisco Lorenzo on 27-3-10 at the Polideportivo Jose Maria Vargas of La Guaira and the Mexican Ivan Cano, on October 10, 8 years ago, at the Poliedro of Caracas in a clash for the WBC lightweight title that was in his possession and that he retained in 4 chapters.
Curiously, none of his compatriots appear in his record.
The latter is explained because Linares did not make his debut in his country of origin and when he came to fight there, he was already a recognized star, with no possible local opponents of relevance in sight.
When he was a teenager, Japanese boxing businessman Akihiko Honda, one of the most important promoters in his country, president, and owner of the Teiken Boxing Gym company, saw in him exceptional qualities and hired the youngster, who at the age of 17 took his steps to Japan.
On December 15, 2002, in Osaka, Linares made his professional debut with an impressive knockout at 45 seconds of the first round over South Korea’s Kyong Soo Chung.
To this victory he added 23 others, 14 of them before the limit. Among those victories he won the WBA Fedelatin super bantamweight and featherweight titles against Hugo Soto and Renan Acosta and the Fedecentro featherweight title against Jean Carlos Sotelo.
Five years after his debut, on July 21, 2007, he received his first chance for the WBC featherweight belt, which he won at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with a KO at 2’37” of the 10th to Mexican Oscar Larios and defended it once against Gamaliel Diaz, who he knocked out in 10. He moved up to super featherweight and also won the WBA belt with a knockout against Colombian Whyber Garcia. He then dispatched Josafat Perez in one in June 2009, but 4 months later he suffered the first setback of his career. In undefeated fight: Mexican Juan Salgado Zambrano (20-0-0 at the time) knocked him down twice in the first and referee Luis Pabon stopped the title fight at 1’30” of the round.
The Venezuelan overcame the frustration and won four fights in a row. However, on October 15, 12 years ago, the Aztec Antonio DeMarco, whom he had beaten on points in the fight for the vacant WBC lightweight throne, surprised him in 11″ for the full count in a surprising result.
Linares took a five-month break and in March of the following year he faced fellow Mexican Sergio Thompson. Another unexpected ending ensued, as the Venezuelan collapsed in the first round for his third KO loss.
Linares returned to his triumphant march and added thirteen consecutive victories, in different scenarios, between the years 2012 to 2018. The string counted knockouts to David Rodela (8th), Berman Sanchez (3rd), Francisco Contreras (1st), Ira Terry (2nd), Javier Prieto (4th), Ivan Cano (4th) and Kevin Mitchell (10th), plus decisions against Hector Velasquez, Nihito Arakawa, Merito Costa, Luke Campbell and two against Anthony Crolla, most of those fights with the WBC and WBA lightweight belt in his possession.
He was stopped by Lomachenko in 10 episodes in a fight for the WBA lightweight title, at Madison Square Garden in NY, a fight in which Linares offered a great exhibition. He knocked down the famous Ukrainian in the sixth, but the European got up, knocked down the Venezuelan in the 10th and the referee stopped the actions at 2.08. The scorecards were at that time 85-85, 86-84 and 84-86.
Then came irrelevant wins against Al Toyogon and Carlos Morales, a brutal and unexpected KO in the first one against the Mexican Juan Pablo Cano, and the four defeats already described at the beginning, the last one last Saturday with Catterall.
The one that led him to take the wise and foreseen decision to reach the end of the road.