Unbeaten but unheralded Mexican Juan Carlos Salgado (22-0-1, 16 KOs), 130, greatly shocked the boxing world when he scored an unexpected TKO over previously unbeaten WBA super-feather champ Jorge Linares (27-1, 18 KOs), 129.75, a prohibitive favorite, at 1:13 of the opening session to capture the belt on Saturday in Tokyo, Japan.
The underdog Salgado’s first solid punch, a looping left hook, surprisingly caught the champ and sent him backward to the deck. Though Linares resumed fighting, he wasn’t ready to exchange punches with the aggressive Mexican challenger only to fall again with his back to the ropes. Watching his shaky legs and glassy eyes, referee Luis Pabon of Puerto Rico wisely declared a halt to save the dethroned champ from further punishment.
No one had expected Linares’ defeat, especially in such a quick fashion, even if we thought Linares’ quick demolition might be possible due to his superior experience against such name opponents as Oscar Larios, Gamaliel Diaz, Saohin Srithai Condo, etc. Though unbeaten, Salgado had not fought so well-known or experienced opponents in his rather short five-year career.
The highly motivated Mexican youngster abruptly threw a left hook-right cross combination, the first caught the champ and the second missed the target. It means the first shot caused the shocker. His Mexican long left hook, against which Linares reacted to block by raising his right hand high, penetrated his guard from inside, hitting the temple of the champ. Reviewing the tape time and again (as this reporter was a TV commentator today), Linares looked dead with this first punch to the head, not to the chin or jaw.
Many ringsiders sensed Linares just took a flash knockdown, but when he barely pulled himself up, he looked like paralyzed so much that his damage was visibly so serious and heavy. As the ref ordered them to go on again, Salgado rushed from the neutral corner to the still dizzy champ and pinned him to the ropes with a flurry of punches. Linares attempted to avert them with his high guard, but Salgado landed a solid right to the head followed by a right uppercut to the face. The champ’s legs appeared buckled and went down again. Linares again managed to raise himself, but his body apparently lost the equilibrium.
Just 73 seconds. It seemed as soon as the fight began, it ended too quickly. It almost made us feel as if we had seen a different drama with a reverse set of the winner and the loser. No, it was true that Linares was the loser and dethroned champ, even upset.
Linares was never a glass jaw, as he proved he could take punch in his tough fight with ex-world challenger Saohin Srithai Condo in 2006 and in earlier rounds of his first title-winning bout with Mexican veteran Oscar Larios in 2007. But Linares of today looked so, mostly probably because he had been too eager and nervous to show a good performance in his seemingly last defense in Japan prior to his expected US campaign under Golden Boy Promotions.
Linares’ future blueprint may be that he will face his conqueror Salgado in a rematch to regain his lost belt, and then move to the US for more and higher competitions. His planned encounter with Humberto Soto or Robert Guerrero temporarily came to naught until he recaptures his belt.
The crestfallen Linares, still 24, said, “As I was knocked down, I lost my coolness. I might have been careless. But I will regain my belt in a revancha (rematch) with Salgado.”