Anthony Crolla v Jorge Linares: Manchester fighter seeking "highlight of my career"

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I'm more clever in the ring now - Crolla
Jorge Linares v Anthony Crolla
Venue: Manchester Arena Date: Saturday, 25 March
Coverage: Live from around 22:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live, text commentary, images and social media debate on BBC Sport website & app

Anthony Crolla believes he will need the best performance of his career to avenge his defeat by Jorge Linares and regain the WBA lightweight title.

Crolla, 30, led on two of the judges' scorecards after nine rounds when the pair met in September but lost the title in a unanimous points decision.

Linares - a three-weight world champion - is a heavy favourite with bookmakers.

"Winning it back on Saturday would, without doubt, be the highlight of my career," said the Manchester fighter.

"There's a lot of people out there who think there's no way I can beat Jorge Linares. Jorge is a great fighter but I'll prove an awful lot of people wrong.

"I'm a realist. I know it's going to take a career best performance."

Both fighters weighed in on Friday at 9st 8lbs.

'A torrid fight'

This will be the seventh rematch of Crolla's career but a first for Linares
This will be the seventh rematch of Crolla's career but a first for Linares

In addition to the WBA title, Linares' Ring Magazine belt will also be on the line and victory would see Crolla become the first Englishman to hold it at lightweight.

About 20,000 fans are expected in the Manchester Arena, which hosted Ricky Hatton's famous IBF super-lightweight title win against heavy favourite Kostya Tszyu in 2005.

BBC Radio 5 live commentator Mike Costello, who will be joined ringside by Steve Bunce and heavyweight Hughie Fury, said: "It's the kind of fight that takes us back 30, 40, 50 years.

"These are two men who have won and lost fights and you don't hear of a protection of a record. They put themselves on the line.

"What we saw first time around was a torrid fight and I think we will see the same again. I just can't wait."

Venezuela-Tokyo: Who is Jorge Linares?

Linares (right) has fought in England twice and won on both occasions
Linares (right) has fought in England twice and won on both occasions

Linares is no stranger to fighting on away territory having only contested four of his 44 professional bouts on home turf in Venezuela.

Unable to fight in his homeland under the age of 18, he moved to Japan and made his professional debut at 17 - setting up in Tokyo where he admits he was initially "always lonely".

Since beginning his career at the renowned Teiken Boxing Gym he has built a reputation as a fighter with fast hands and a dangerous counter-puncher.

He was WBC world featherweight champion at just 21, claimed the WBA crown at super-featherweight less than two years later and won the WBC title at lightweight in 2014.

Linares believes he is "better prepared" than he was in his first Crolla meeting, adding: "I'm coming in and doing whatever is necessary to win more convincingly than I did in September."

'Best ever' training camp

Hot yoga away from the gym three times a week is part of Crolla's weekly training schedule
Hot yoga away from the gym three times a week is part of Crolla's weekly training schedule

Crolla, who will contest the seventh rematch of his career, has been forced by trainer Joe Gallagher to reduce media commitments and distractions in the weeks leading up to the fight.

Gallagher believes his charge is in a better place "mentally" and feels the winner of the contest will "strike the jackpot" by potentially setting up a meeting with WBC champion Mikey Garcia in Las Vegas.

"Joe has given me more one on one time than ever before," said Crolla. "I always have faith in what he tells me to do and this time it's certainly been our best camp together.

"We've had more rounds of sparring and we've been smart as well, maybe more rest will have me fresher this time."

A typical week for Crolla

Monday AM: Punching session PM: Swimming intervals

Tuesday AM: Pads, followed by strength and conditioning PM: Yoga

Wednesday AM: Punching session PM: Swimming intervals

Thursday AM: Pads, followed by strength and conditioning PM: Yoga

Friday AM: Sparring, followed by weights PM: Chiropractor and massage

Saturday AM: Yoga Sunday: Rest

Glove choice interesting

Gallagher puts gloves on Anthony Crolla
Gallagher (right) believes the winner of the fight will hit the "jackpot"

Linares had stopped seven of eight opponents before meeting Crolla, who admits their bout turned on a power punch he took in the sixth round.

Gallagher feels Linares' choice of gloves this time around indicate he is targeting a knockout.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "The brand he has picked are known as a puncher's glove. They allow you to use power.

"When you see the choice of gloves, it gives you an idea of game plan. They want to throw fast combinations, go hard early and try to get the job done."

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