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Jorge Linares to defend lightweight title against Anthony Crolla

Lightweight world champion Jorge Linares and Anthony Crolla, who waged one of the best fights of 2016, will meet in a rematch, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced Wednesday.

The sequel, which was expected because Crolla exercised his rematch clause, will take place on March 25 at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, Crolla's hometown and the same venue where their first fight took place on Sept. 24.

"The last fight was a fight of the year contender and Linares boxed out of his skin, but one thing we know about Anthony is his ability to bounce back, and he is so determined to win this fight," Hearn said. "He has created some wonderful atmospheres at the Manchester Arena over the last few years and I believe March 25 will be the best yet."

In their first fight, which was filled with momentum changes, tremendous action and saw both fighters suffer cuts, Linares overcame a right hand injury and won a unanimous decision by scores of 117-111, 115-114 and 115-113 to take Crolla's 135-pound world title in a meeting of the division's top two fighters.

Linares (41-3, 27 KOs), who has boxed all over the world, will be fighting in England for the third time in his last four fights. In 2015, he retained a version of the lightweight title by knocking out England's Kevin Mitchell in the 10th round in London.

Linares, 31, of Venezuela, who has won world titles in three weight divisions (featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight), said he had no problem returning to Crolla's hometown for the rematch.

"I am really excited to be going back to Manchester," Linares said. "I was treated very well by everyone and gained a lot of new British fans. Crolla is a tremendous fighter with a lot of heart so I know I must train twice as hard for another tough fight. I want to thank Eddie Hearn at Matchroom, my promoters at Golden Boy Promotions and Teiken. I promise another great performance and assure that the belts are returning home with me."

The 30-year-old Crolla (31-5-3, 13 KOs) is excited to make the rematch official and to have a second chance against Linares.

"There had been lots of talk on the rematch since the first fight with Jorge so I'm delighted to finally get this announced," Crolla said. "I've been in the gym right the way up to Christmas even though the fight is a little bit of a while off. I'm working hard and making improvements. I will have to show improvements in the rematch if I am to win. I came up short on the night against the better man. With those improvements I believe I can change the result this time around.

"I see Jorge as the best lightweight in the world and I want to be the best lightweight in the world. It is always up for discussion that label, of course. He is seen as the man at the moment and I want to test myself against the very best, even though I have already been in with him. These are the fights that I want to be involved in."

In November 2015, Crolla knocked out Darleys Perez in a rematch of their draw to win the belt and then knocked out dangerous puncher Ismael Barroso, the mandatory challenger, in May before losing the belt to Linares four months later.

"No excuses from me from the first fight," Crolla said. "I had a great camp. I came up short against a great fighter. I thought the fight itself was going well. I felt like I was in control up until the sixth round [when] he caught me with a great shot and buzzed me. I felt that in the next round it took a bit of zap out of my punches and legs. Fair play to Linares -- he used his experience and won the last few rounds, which is usually what I do."