As Jorge Linares looks ahead to 2019, he has two clear objectives in mind: either fight for a world title at junior welterweight or engage in a rematch with WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, who stopped him in 10 rounds in May.
"That would be the only fight that we do at 135," Linares, 33, said from Vegas, through his manager, Jose De La Cruz, on Monday morning. "There is no other fight I will come down for, I will stay at 140."
After his loss to Lomachenko, Linares (45-4, 28 KOs) bounced back with a third-round stoppage of Abner Cotto on Sept. 29 in a fight that took place at junior welterweight. Last Friday night as IBF junior welterweight world titleholder Maurice Hooker took care of challenger Alex Saucedo, there was already talk about Hooker facing the accomplished Linares, who has won various world titles at featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight throughout his career.
"I would definitely like that fight at 140," stated Linares, of the 29-year-old Hooker (25-0-3, 17 KO). "Right now we're just going to wait for Golden Boy, our promoter, to define our next date. We were looking at December on the Canelo [Alvarez] undercard [on Dec. 15], but that didn't happen so hopefully we'll be fighting in January just to stay in shape and have a big, big fight in the summer."
"Right now, I feel the best I've ever felt, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my career. I think I can fight another three or four more years. I don't see myself fighting after 2022 but you just never know, I believe my best fights are still in the future. I don't think you've seen the best of Jorge Linares and I feel great." Jorge Linares
Linares said of Hooker, "He's a good fighter, obviously. He didn't get there by accident, but I think with my technique, my experience, my legs, my combinations, I think he will have some trouble with that. I don't think he's ever faced a fighter like myself. So I think it would be an interesting fight and it's something we'd want to do."
De La Cruz says he's been in constant discussions with Golden Boy Promotions about his client's future.
"Like Jorge mentioned earlier, we're just looking for the big, big fight in the summer," said De La Cruz.
"Whoever that might be, it's going to be a big one," Eric Gomez, the president of GBP, confirmed to ESPN.com. "That's what we talked about, we'll come back in January and then obviously look for some sort of title fight."
Hooker makes sense given that he's a world titlist and that the other significant junior welterweights are currently locked up in the World Boxing Super Series. Also there is this factor: Golden Boy Promotions recently entered into a high-profile deal with DAZN (with the centerpiece being Alvarez) that gave them dates on the platform. Hooker just happens to also be associated with DAZN, as he recently inked a pact with Matchroom Sports, who will co-promote him alongside RocNation Sports.
But before Linares hunts for another world title belt in a fourth class, he still feels that he has unfinished business with Lomachenko. Before the body shot in the 10th round that floored Linares and dramatically ended their compelling match in May, the scorecards read 86-84 (Lomachenko), 86-84 (Linares) and 85-85. In what was a stylistic chess match, Linares not only was able to match him tactically but he became the first opponent to score a knockdown of the highly regarded Ukrainian southpaw with a straight right hand in the sixth round.
"Most definitely I would like to fight him again. He has an upcoming fight December 8 and obviously after that outcome, we're going to have talks with them and see if we can make this happen for the mid-part of the upcoming year," said Linares, referring to Lomachenko's upcoming unification bout against WBO titlist Jose Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs) in New York City.
Linares believes that what was learned the first time around can get him over the top in a rematch.
"We were about six minutes away from beating the pound-for-pound number-one fighter in the world," he proclaimed.
This much is clear: Linares still feels he has another good run or two left in the sport.
"Right now, I feel the best I've ever felt, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my career. I think I can fight another three or four more years," he said. "I don't see myself fighting after 2022 but you just never know. I believe my best fights are still in the future. I don't think you've seen the best of Jorge Linares and I feel great."