INGLEWOOD – Luke Campbell of England didn’t begin boxing until he was 13, which is somewhat late. That didn’t stop him from winning a gold medal in the 2012 London Games.
Still, he figured to be in deep water Saturday when he challenged Jorge Linares of Venezuela for his lightweight championship at The Forum.
Campbell distinguished himself well over 12 rounds. But he couldn’t overcome a second-round knockdown as Linares successfully defended his title via split-decision in front of 4,125.
Linares (43-3) won by scores of 115-112 (Zachary Young) and 114-113 (Max Deluca). The third judge – Victor Loughlin – gave it to Campbell by a 115-113 count. This newspaper scored it 115-112 for Linares.
When Linares decked Campbell with a 1-2 combination that culminated with a right cross to the head, it appeared Linares might be able to get Campbell out of there rather quickly, especially since that right opened a cut under the right eye of Campbell.
But Campbell (17-2) – a southpaw – fought back nicely, eventually finding a home for his right cross. Both fighters landed well to the body, and Campbell was able to stay in the fight by picking off a lot of Linares’ punches with his gloves.
Linares, 32, was happy with his work, but he knew Campbell gave him some grief.
“I fought very well,” Campbell said. “I’m happy with the fight. 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. “I knew I had to let the dogs out. We want (fellow champion) Mikey Garcia next.”
Campbell, 29, thought he controlled the second half of the fight.
“No one can ever doubt my hard work,” he said. “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.”
Oscar De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, gave credit to both fighters.
“Experience,” De La Hoya, citing the difference. “But Campbell came out to fight. He’s a great fighter. My hat’s off to him. I believe Campbell will be a world champion one day.”
Antonio Orozco, ranked No. 1 by one of the major governing bodies at super lightweight, was supposed to take on Roberto Ortiz of Mexico in the semi-main event, but that bout was scrapped.
Orozco, of San Diego, did not show up for Friday’s weigh-in. It was the second time…