MANCHESTER, England -- Jorge Linares enjoyed another trip to Britain after reaffirming his status as the worlds leading lightweight with a unanimous points win over Anthony Crolla on Saturday.Three-weight world champion Linares was taken 12 rounds for the first time in his career to earn scores of 115-114, 117-111 and 115-113 after a bloody battle at the Manchester Arena.But it was not a convincing win for Linares, who finished strongly in the last three rounds to end Crollas reign in his second WBA world lightweight title defence.It was Linares first fight in nearly a year, and he may have been a bit relieved to hear the scores after being out-worked by Crolla for large parts of the fight. But Linares class, with his sharp counter attacks, earned him the decision.?I hurt my hand in the sixth round and backed off a bit, but I told my corner before the 10th round Im going to close these rounds, and I think thats what got me the victory, Linares said in the ring. I think I hurt him a couple times, but I didnt want to be too aggressive. Anthony Crolla deserves a rematch, so why not do it again. I would come back to Manchester.Last year, the Venezuelan visited Britain to leave Londoner Kevin Mitchells face looking a mess in a 10th-round win, but this time it was closer.It was close. Ive got no complaints, Crolla said. Linares captured Crollas WBA title and also picked up the WBC Diamond and Ring magazine belts. His next opponent is likely to be Montenegros Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs), who became WBC champion during Linares absence.Linares was stripped of the WBC title due to his inactivity with a fractured right hand that needed surgery, but he showed against Crolla that he is still the man to beat at lightweight.Manchester United fan Crolla did not have a great start to the night after forgetting to bring his gumshield and shorts to the venue. Someone was sent to retrieve the vital items, but there was nothing disorganised about Crollas early work, and he was the more adventurous in the first round with shots to the head.But Linares was dangerous with his body shots from the first round, particularly with the left hand. The 31-year-old looked slick despite his ring absence, and there was little evidence the layoff had badly affected him.Linares landed a vicious, four-punch combination in the third round and also escaped having a point deducted for a low blow after referee Terry OConnor gave him a third warning.Crolla, 29, was better in the fourth round but did well to absorb a thudding to the body in the fifth. Linares was also cut above the left eye in the fifth round, perhaps caused by a slashing right hook from Crolla, and the early snap in his punches was missing.The sixth round was a thriller, one which Crolla seemed to be winning as he increased the pressure against a fading Linares. But Linares rocked Crolla with a big right hook and the Briton found himself in trouble on the ropes, and the bell was a welcome relief.Crolla suffered a cut on the side of his head during a wild sixth round, but it did not concern him too much as he again peppered Linares with head shots in the seventh.The fight had swayed in the Manchester boxers favour, and he was busier than Linares again in the eighth round. Crollas energy levels were better in the second half of the fight, and he began throwing combinations with more confidence in the ninth round.But Linares finished strongly by landing some heavy shots with quick combinations in the 10th round, which proved decisive.The 12th round was a slugfest that ended with both boxers faces smeared in blood, and after this entertaining fight, there could well be a rematch. 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