Venezuela’s Jorge Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) dropped No. 1 contender Luke Campbell (17-2, 14 KOs) with a hard straight right hand in the second round. Campbell roared back from the knockdown to make it a closer-than-expected fight, but Linares stayed busy throughout the bout.
Linares retained his WBA, WBC Diamond and Ring Magazine world Lightweight titles with a split-decision victory over Campbell in the HBO World Championship Boxing main event on Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Two judges scored the bout 115-112 and 114-113 for Linares, while the third judge scored it 115-113 for Campbell.
Campbell was able to adjust and land jabs and straight left hands effectively after being cut for the first time. Linares had trouble with the southpaw jab and wasn’t able to land solid punches, which made the fight hard to score.
“I fought very well. I’m happy with the fight,” said Linares. “At the fifth round, we had some trouble but we came out on top. Trust me, I have a great connection with my team and with my trainer, so we worked hard and kept at it.”
Linares took the first three rounds before Campbell began to land body shots and right hooks in the middle rounds.
Hard body shots landed for Campbell as he gained confidence as the fight went on. Campbell landed a three-punch combination to close Round 9. Linares scores on combos but Campbell answers with counters as Linares to stay busy.
“No one can ever doubt my hard work,” said Campbell, who won a gold medal in 2012. “Yeah, I got off to a rocky start. He caught me in the eye. A nice shot that put me on the mat. But I had to fight, I had to get focused. I didn’t think he was landing any shots whatsoever in the second half.”
Linares was more efficient with his power punches, landing 39 percent and edged Campbell in jabs with 20 according to CompuBox.
The three division world champion fought in the United States for the first time in three years. Linares has spent much of his career in Japan.
Linares extended his win streak to 12 fights but has his eyes set on a possible showdown with WBC Lightweight champion Mikey Garcia.
When asked by Max Kellerman who he would want to fight next, Linares said, “Mikey Garcia.”
“If he needs to go to 140, I will go to 140,” said Linares.