Indio, Ca– Venezuelan three-division world champion Jorge Linares returned to the ring at Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino to make his debut in the super-lightweight division to defeat Puerto Rican contender Abner Cotto by way of knockout in the third round.
The first round was a jab fest as both fighters cautiously aimed to adjust to each other’s style. Regardless of Cotto landing a couple of decent punches, Linares was always one step forward looking sharp and agile regardless of going up in weight.
Just when Cotto seemed to gain some confidence in the second round, Linares (45-4, 27 KOs) landed a one-two combination that sent Cotto (23-4, 12 KOs) to the canvas in all fours. Showing this fight was easy work, Linares stood in his corner instead of sitting in between in rounds as he talked to his corner.
In the third round, Linares continued to stalk Cotto like a defenseless prey landing a massive right hand between Cotto’s gloves that had him on the canvas once again, this time on his back. As the fight resumed, Cotto complained to the referee about a low punch but failed to get his attention. Linares took the opportunity to keep throwing punches cornering Cotto against the ropes and engaging in an awkward clinch that led both of them to fall.
As Cotto wobbled in his attempt to get back up, the referee stopped the bout at minute 1:21 of the third round.
“I feel good and ready to fight the best at 140 pounds,” Linares said post-fight. “I’ve been hearing Mikey Garcia’s name and he’s been hearing my name. Maybe we can have that fight next year. I came in very well prepared to fight the best in the division.”
In his post-fight interview, Linares assured he feels comfortable at 140 pounds and will only go back down to 135 pounds for a rematch with the pound-for-pound fighter Vasyl Lomachenko. Though he said he wishes to return to the ring once more before the year ends, he also expressed interest in seeing how Lomachenko performs in his Dec. 8 unification bout against Puerto Rican champion Jose Pedraza.
In the co-main event, hard-hitting Filipino lightweight Romero “Ruthless” Duno defeated Mexican contender Ezequiel Avilez by way of unanimous decision in an eight-round toe-to-toe battle.
The fighters commenced the first round by simultaneously landing straight jabs to the face; though the round was competitive with both fighters landing significant shots, Duno sent Avilez to the canvas in the last seconds of the round.
As the fight went on, Avilez (16-3-3, 6 KOs) traded heavy leather with the young Filipino champion, landing vicious uppercuts that seemed to motivate Duno (18-1, 14 KOs) to come back with harder shots of his own.
The sixth round had fans at the edge of their seat as Duno pummeled Avilez and wobbled him with a straight right hand that caused his glove to touch the canvas, ruling it a knockdown. The brutal attack continued as Duno rocked Avilez with a right uppercut and dropped him for the second time in the round with a sharp left hook.
Avilez came out in the seventh round fighting back like he hadn’t been dropped, landing massive shots which never seemed to phase Duno. In the final round, both fighters stood toe-to-toe in the center of the ring, throwing punches with the intention to knock the other out. Duno wobbled Avilez in the last second of the round, with the referee catching him as he intervened. After the fan-pleasing performance, all three judges scored the fight 78-71 for Duno.