Prior to his fight on Saturday night for a junior welterweight title, Mikey Garcia was asked if anything concerned him about his opponent, current champion Sergey Lipinets. His response? “His hunger and his power.”
Lipinets was hungry, showed some of his power and plenty of heart in his first title defense. Unfortunately for him, Mikey Garcia demonstrated why he is a pound-for-pound elite in the sport of boxing, winning a competitive but decisive unanimous decision to collect Lipinets’ IBF belt in San Antonio, Texas. Garcia has now won world titles in four weight classes, and appears eager and willing to challenge anyone from 135 to 147 pounds.
While he was a heavy betting favorite against an opponent who isn’t well know to the casual boxing public, some wondered if Mikey would be able to continue to move up in weight and have the same success he enjoyed in lower weight classes. The answer seems to be yes. The final scorecards for the bout were 116-111, 117-110 and 117-110.
Fully aware that he was fighting against a naturally bigger man, Mikey used his jab, some nice footwork, and simple one-two combinations for much of the early part of the fight. His right hand landed often and he countered very well against an aggressive Lipinets. Over 12 entertaining rounds, Lipinets pressed the action frequently and didn’t make things easy for Garcia. Many of the rounds were competitive and close, but Garcia was clearly the more skilled operator and the better overall boxer.
Both fighters landed multiple clean shots throughout the fight. While one could argue that Lipinets landed the harder shots and bloodied the challenger’s nose, Garcia never appeared truly hurt and showed that his chin should be fine at 140lbs. In the seventh round, Garcia dropped Lipinets with a left hook, marking the first time Lipinets has been knocked down as a professional. Lipinets was never in danger of being stopped, but the knockdown should put the division on notice that Garcia’s power appears to have also carried up in weight.
Options now abound for Mikey Garcia. Expect to hear a LOT of names mentioned within the next few weeks on who might be his next opponent. He has options to defend his WBC 135-pound title, continue at light welterweight and defend his new IBF title, try his luck at 147 pounds, or attempt to unify any of his titles. Regardless, he is an elite level fighter and should be in line for some huge fights soon.
Despite losing his belt, Lipinets should remain a player in the division. He showed above average skill, was able to connect clean on Mikey, showed a great chin and good conditioning, and a willingness to engage and entertain with his come-forward style. With only 13 fights to his credit before Saturday night, this experience should help him and he would be a very tough fight for anyone in the light welterweight division.
By Matt Cramblet