The Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas will host a pair of world title fights in the light welterweight division on Saturday night, March 10th. Headlining the card is Mikey Garcia, who will challenge current IBF champion Sergey “The Samurai” Lipinets for his title. Showtime will televise the fight, and coverage starts at 10:15 eastern time.
Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), who has won world titles at featherweight, junior lightweight, and lightweight, will be looking for another strap to add to his collection against the talented but unknown commodity that is Lipinets. Garcia was last seen in July 2017 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, where he won a unanimous decision against Adrien Broner.
Multiple reports and rumors swirled in the fall of 2017 as to who would be next for Garcia. Names such as Miguel Cotto, Jorge Linares, and Robert Easter Jr. were mentioned by various outlets, but none of those fights materialized. This led Garcia to accept the fight with Lipinets while receiving assurances from the WBC that he would keep his lightweight title regardless of the result against the Russian champion.
Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs), born in Kazakhstan and raised in Russia, won the (then) vacant IBF title via unanimous decision against Japan’s Akihiro Kondo in November. That fight was made possible in the aftermath of Terence Crawford’s victory against Julius Indongo.
Crawford unified all four major belts but indicated he would not meet the IBF deadline for a mandatory defense and would voluntarily vacate the belt. Although he is generally regarded as a quality operator with above average power, some wonder if Lipinets is ready to take on a task like Garcia. Mikey Garcia represents a massive step up in class and some bookmakers have listed Lipinets as a 9-1 underdog.
To his credit, Lipinets doesn’t seem nervous about the fight, and has readily admitted that he knows he must beat the best to get the credit he wants and will take the toughest fights available to prove he is worthy of his belt.
Despite the odds and the relative anonymity of Sergey Lipinets, this could prove to be a highly entertaining fight for as long as it lasts. Both fighter like to come forward, both have knockout power in both hands, and both seem confident. Does Lipinets have the skill and power to trouble a world-class fighter? Will Mikey’s power carry up to the higher weight classes? All will be answered on Saturday night.
In the chief undercard fight, another light welterweight title will be up for grabs when two weight world champion Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs) takes on Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KOs) in a rematch of a highly controversial fight that took place 10 months ago in the Washington DC suburbs. This rematch will see the winner claim the vacant WBA light welterweight belt.
Barthelemy, a Cuban defector, has shown expert skill in wins over the likes of Antonio Demarco, Dennis Shafikov and Mickey Bey. In the first fight against Relikh, he appeared troubled for large parts of the fight and had difficulties coping with the aggressiveness of his opponent. The fight seemed very close, but the scorecards were embarrassingly wide, and the crowd loudly booed when Barthelemy was declared the winner.
This fight gives Rances the opportunity to prove he is far more skilled than his opponent and the first fight was a fluke. Relikh, a native of Belarus who cut his teeth as a pro in the Ricky Hatton gym, has massive power, a high work rate, but not much luck with it comes to fight judges. Prior to the disputed result in the first fight against Barthelemy, he traveled to Scotland in 2016 to take on Ricky Burns at the SSE Hydro and lost via unanimous decision.
While not as disputed as the Barthelemy fight, there were many fans and boxing writers that believed Relikh was on the wrong end of a hometown Scottish decision. If he is to remain relevant in the sport, Relikh must find a way to win this fight against Barthelemy, as three straight losses may mean the end of any world title aspirations.
Stay tuned to FV360 for updates and a full post fight report!
By: Matt Cramblet