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Jorge Linares-Vasiliy Lomachenko more competitive than you think

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Can Linares challenge Lomachenko? (2:28)

Dan Rafael and Bernardo Osuna preview Saturday's lightweight title fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jorge Linares on ESPN. (2:28)

There will be no shortage of quality when lightweight world titlist Jorge Linares and junior lightweight world titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko meet in an ESPN-televised bout Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

It is an intriguing matchup for Linares' WBA world title between two world-champion boxers who possess dazzling skills and speed.

What are the key areas and how do they compare?


Skills: Lomachenko

Most agree that Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) has the finest set of skills in boxing, and for some, that makes him pound-for-pound No 1.

The Ukrainian, who is based in California, has bamboozled opponents with his breathtaking technique, array of punches, feints and trickery.

Lomachenko's ability means it has looked simple for him at times, and he even backed into a corner and beckoned Miguel Marriaga to try to hit him in August.

Lomachenko has toyed with opponents with his fast combinations and sublime footwork, which he uses to switch the angles of his attacks, leaving opponents at a loss with how to cope with him.

Known aptly as 'Hi-Tech,' Lomachenko lands pitter-patter punches at blurring speed, disorientating his opponents. Linares must find a way to stop Lomachenko gathering momentum with his skills.


Speed: Linares

It is tough to separate these two speedsters, but Linares is perhaps a bit quicker.

Linares (44-3, 27 KOs), who is from Venezuela but splits his time between Japan and Las Vegas, has not fought anyone with blurring hand speed like Lomachenko, but he has sparred with Manny Pacquiao.

"I feel I am faster. He fights with very good angles, but I think I can show things he hasn't seen with my angles and my speed," Linares said.

Linares' speed is potentially the biggest problem Lomachenko has faced since Mexico's Orlando Salido's low blows and roughhouse tactics inflicted a split decision defeat in Lomachenko's second professional fight. Salido, who entered the ring 11 pounds heavier than Lomachenko, used his experience to outsmart Lomachenko in March 2014.

For Linares, the challenge will be to make his speed count. If Linares' speed enables him to apply consistent pressure, keeping Lomachenko on the back foot, he will eliminate one of the Ukrainian's biggest assets: his masterful footwork.


Experience: Linares

Linares, 32, has won seven straight lightweight title fights and had more world title fights (13) than Lomachenko has had professional fights.

That experience has given Linares a good boxing IQ, and he has won world titles in three weight classes, although he lacks the big-name win on his record to earn a place in most people's top 10 pound-for-pound rankings.

"He knows what he's in for, I'm not an ordinary fighter," Linares said.

A lack of professional experience cost Lomachenko against Salido, who outroughed him and was successful with his attacks to the body (although some of the punches were illegal).

Lomachenko, 30, had vast experience as an amateur that saw him win two Olympic gold medals and finish with an astounding 396-1 record.

But amateur and professional boxing are different. Lomachenko paid the price for moving too fast too soon in the pro ranks when he tried to win a world title in only his second paid bout.

Lomachenko has shown he has learned from that setback -- under the tutelage of father Anatoly, he became a world champion just three months after losing to Salido -- but he will still be trying to win a world title in a third weight class in just his 12th paid bout.


Tale of the tape

  • Linares: Three-division world titlist (featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight)

  • Linares: 11-2 (7 KO) in world title fights

  • Linares: 13-fight winning streak dating back to October 2012. Last four fights have gone all 12 rounds

  • Linares: Lands 37.8 percent of power punches, according to CompuBox (lightweight avg. 36.1 percent). 35 percent of landed punches are body shots, according to CompuBox (CompuBox avg. 23.2 percent)

  • Lomachenko: Seeking world title in third different division (featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight)

  • Lomachenko: 9-fight win streak dating back to June 2014 (seven consecutive knockouts)

  • Lomachenko: 9-1 (7 KO) in world title fights. Reported 396-1 record as an amateur boxer

  • Lomachenko: +19.4 plus/minus, according to CompuBox (plus/minus is connect percentage minus opponents' connect percentage). Lands 47.8 percent of power punches, according to CompuBox


Defense: Lomachenko

Linares has given away rounds in the last three years to English opponents: Luke Campbell in September; Anthony Crolla in the first of their two fights in September 2016 and against Kevin Mitchell in May 2015, when Linares got off the floor to win.

Lomachenko, on the other hand, has a miserly defense that lets through few punches. His reactions and reflexes, along with dazzling footwork, will make it difficult for the offensive-minded Linares to get into any rhythm.

Fleet-footed Lomachenko stopped boxing temporarily to learn traditional Ukrainian dancing in his childhood, and his mobility will be a serious problem for Linares, who is on a 13-fight winning streak.


Size: Linares

This is the third weight division Lomachenko has fought in since he turned pro, moving up 9 pounds, and Linares will be naturally the bigger man having operated at lightweight for eight years.

Linares will also have a 1-inch height and 3-inch reach advantages.

If El Niño de Oro can box off his jab, stay on the outside and away from trouble, Lomachenko will not be able to dominate him as he has recent opponents.

"It's a big challenge, because before this fight, I fought against guys who were the same size or a little bit smaller than me," Lomachenko said.

"Now, I want to feel the way [Guillermo] Rigondeaux felt when he fought me. He was smaller than I at that point. I am going to be smaller than my opponents now. I want to show people it's not a big problem, that 5 pounds is not too big of a difference."


KO ability: Lomachenko

Lomachenko's past four opponents have quit, including the unbeaten pair of Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters.

"Maybe they should call me 'No-Mas-Chenko,'" Lomachenko said after Rigondeaux, regarded as being one of the world's top ten boxers in the world at the time, quit at the end of the sixth round in December.

Lomachenko has just not had a chance to finish what he started in his last four fights, so do not rule out his capability of a knockout. Just look back at what he did to Roman Martinez at junior lightweight in 2016, to become the fastest two-weight world champion in boxing history.

But can Lomachenko knock out an opponent in his first fight at lightweight? He can if he dominates Linares like his previous victims.

If not a Lomachenko KO, then perhaps it will be a stoppage on cuts.

Linares has had to contend with cuts before -- he suffered a cut around his right eye in his last bout against Mercito Gesta, a unanimous points decision in January.

And in 2011, Linares suffered terrible cuts in an 11th round defeat to Antonio DeMarco for a vacant lightweight world title. In his next fight, Sergio Thompson stopped Linares in the second round after suffering a cut on his left eyelid.