Big day for boxing
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2018 - 12:00am

Today, it’s “wall-to-wall” boxing on TV5 from morning to night as coverage starts with the live satellite feed of the WBA lightweight title fight between defending belt-holder Jorge Linares and challenger Vasyl Lomachenko from Madison Square Garden in New York City and ends with the IBF minimumweight championship eliminator between Panabo’s Mark Anthony Barriga and Colombian veteran Gabriel Mendoza from the SM City North EDSA Skydome.

Both Linares, 32, and Lomachenko, 30, scaled 134.6 pounds at the weigh-in last Friday. A 7-1 favorite, Lomachenko is bidding for his third world crown in different divisions but has never fought in the 135-pound class before. The heaviest he’s weighed in for a bout was 130 so this is unfamiliar territory for the Ukrainian, hailed as the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter over the celebrated Gennady Golovkin. Is Lomachenko biting more than he can chew?

Linares has campaigned as a lightweight since 2010 and hasn’t lost in six years. He brings a four-inch reach advantage against Lomachenko, a critical factor because the Venezuelan relies on his power jab to set up his body attack. The consensus is Linares is one of the best counterpunchers in the business today so Lomachenko should know better than to come forward with reckless abandon. Lomachenko is likely to stick and run, making it difficult for Linares to counter.

Linares isn’t worried about Lomachenko’s southpaw style. His last two victims were lefthanders but both went the distance with the WBA champion. One of them, Englishman Luke Campbell, lost by split decision so it wasn’t an easy win for Linares. Also, one of three fighters who’ve beaten Linares was a southpaw, Tony DeMarco who scored an 11th round stoppage in 2011. Linares’ three losses were by knockout and he has been decked by Kevin Mitchell, Juan Carlos Salgado, Sergio Thompson and Jean Javier Sotelo. Local fans are familiar with Linares because he has victimized five Filipinos – Mercito Gesta, Pedrito Laurente, Michael Domingo, Ariel Austria and Jeffrey Onate. Gesta, Laurente and Domingo went the full route with Linares.

Lomachenko, who outpointed Filipino Olympian Charly Suarez in an amateur bout in 2013, is known for his balance, footwork, high work-rate, skill level, precision and technique. While he has no one-punch knockout power, Lomachenko has the ability to punish opponents and bludgeon them to submission. His last four opponents, including Nicholas Walters and Guillermo Rigondeaux who both beat Nonito Donaire, Jr., retired on their stool after absorbing a horrific beating. That’s how Lomachenko likes to dominate and humiliate. It’s his merciless approach that makes him a fan favorite.

But there’s more to the matchup than just a battle of champions. It’s also a showdown between Top Rank, which promotes Lomachenko, and Golden Boy, which promotes Linares. The fight wouldn’t have been arranged if not for the influence of Japanese impresario Akihiko Honda who got Bob Arum and Oscar de la Hoya together to stage this classic match. Linares actually lives in Japan where he has fought 23 of his 47 fights. With Honda as his prime promoter, Linares has fought wherever the road leads him – to Panama, Argentina, Mexico, South Korea, England, Venezuela and the US. He’s built a reputation as a fearless, crafty technician much like Erik Morales.

TV5’s coverage starts at 9 this morning with a live feed of the Linares-Lomachenko battle. Then, it continues with selected Madison Square Garden undercard fights before a 12 noon replay of the main event. From 1 to 2:30 p.m., TV5 will air the “Hard Hitters” show featuring bouts from overseas. From 2:30 to 4:15 p.m., the fireworks shift to the SM City North EDSA Skydome for the “Survival Instinct: Matira Matibay” card. Boxing will take a break on TV5 to give way to the PBA doubleheader but the Skydome fights will go on over Aksyon TV. Just before the PBA break, former WBO superflyweight champion Marvin Sonsona will face Indonesia’s Arief Blader. After the PBA, TV5 will return to the Skydome for the A. J. Banal-Master Suro and Barriga-Mendoza duels.

The blockbuster boxing attraction wouldn’t be possible without TV5 CEO Chot Reyes’ backing. ESPN5 head Lloyd Manaloto, TV5 first vice president for content and programming Mel Yazon-Tolentino and ESPN5 executive producer Michael (Chu) Villar collaborated to make the country’s first-ever “wall-to-wall” all-day boxing event happen.

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