Action Images/Lee Smith
TRAINER Ismael Salas has been unable to prepare WBA lightweight world champion Jorge Linares to fight Vasyl Lomachenko. Salas was committed to training David Haye and Joe Joyce in London.
But Salas recalled his history with Linares. “In 2011, they spoke to me about Jorge Linares. I started to work with Linares, Mr Seconda, his promoter brought him there; he had brought him and Edwin Valero to me in Japan but [eventually] I said, ‘Sorry, I’m going to Australia’, and then Linares went his own way. He went to LA with Freddie Roach, lost by knockout, and was a mess when he came to my gym.
“His manager said, ‘Will you teach him to be a trainer?’ Linares was a mess, but I was surprised. I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Linares has no chin, no balls, no discipline.’ It was all negative. I did a test with Jorge, and he had very high co-ordination. ‘But what do you do with co-ordination and no heart?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry.’ So I started with him; it was almost six years we were together.”
Salas takes huge pride in what they achieved together. “He’s a very, very good success for me, because I brought him from scratch. I look at Linares three ways – mentally we brought his confidence back, which he showed when he fought Kevin Mitchell here in London. He got rocked, stood up like a warrior, with 20,000 people shouting, and he’d improved. That was the big test to see what we’d achieved. He’s an amazing fighter, technically,” Salas said.
“He’s very dedicated, very technical, very good – his skill is amazing. With Linares, because he started very early as a professional at 17, 18, he just matured late, so people didn’t see his real potential. Like Freddie Roach, who said he had a chicken heart and a glass jaw. He was using Linares to help [Manny] Pacquiao, but he did not train him properly.
“The poor boy had a dream, but he was too concentrated on Pacquiao; when he came to my gym he was totally broke, mentally. The turning point was in sparring when I could see he was a little scared. I said, ‘If you want to keep working with me you have to kick his ass tomorrow; not the day after tomorrow.’ The next day, he knocked him out; it was the turning point. It’s the mind of a guy. Boxing is in the mind. You can have very good fitness, very good technique, but if your mind is not right, by fight time you can’t do anything.”