Last year we saw Kazakh born Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10) claim the IBF Light Welterweight title, as he out pointed Japan's Akihiro Kondo in a tougher than expected bout. The competitiveness of the contest took a lot of shine from Lipinets' rise to a title, which had otherwise been brilliant with wins over the likes of Cosme Rivera, Kendal Mena, Haskell Rhodes, Levan Ghamichava, Walter Castillo and Leonardo Zappavigna, stopping all but Rhodes. This coming Saturday Lipinets will be looking to get back to his destructive best, and record his first defense, but will be facing the biggest test of his career so far, multi-weight former world champion Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30).
The Kazakh born Russian, who is now based in the US, looked great on his rise through the ranks. We've already listed most of his opponents, and for a fighter with just 13 fights that is stiff competition. He looked tough, aggressive, very hard hitting, exciting and explosive. Those traits however failed him somewhat against Kondo, who took his biggest shots and marched forward, as if to ask for more, before timing Lipinets and dragging him into deep water in later rounds.
Despite the bout with Kondo being a disappointment in many ways for Lipinets it did manage to have some positives. It showed he could win a big one, he could grit out a tough fight, go 12 rounds and despite not being as good as we thought he was, he's still a world champion. And we've all seen fighters get better after winning world titles, with some fighters really finding themselves after winning a world title and refusing to let it go.
In the ring Lipinets is a bit basic. He's got some touches of flash, but overall it's his power and toughness which has shone. He appears to take a very good shot, and have series power of his own. He's not the quickest, but he does have that surprising speed and timing that really does seem to be common with a lot of those fighters who have come through the Eastern European ranks, but he stills has some traits from being a kickboxer and can regularly be found low hands, and a stance that looks little off, and could be taken advantage of by a talented fight.
In Mikey Garcia we have one of the sports best technical fighters. He controls the ring brilliantly behind a really smart boxing brain. He sets the tempo, he knows how to back off and come forward behind his jab and footwork, he knows how to use the ring, and has the frightening power that makes all fighters respect him. That power has managed to carry up from Featherweight, where he won his first world title back in 2013, to Lightweight, where he iced Dejan Zlaticanin last year. When opponents can take his power, as Adrien Broner could, he boxes behind his jab and right hand, staying away from risks to rack up the points and take the decision.
When we're looking for flaws with Garcia we are sometimes looking to pick holes in tiny little things. For example Garcia has looked effective up close, but has still shown some great touches when he's had to fight an opponent in his face, his stamina hasn't looked flawless, but few will force him to fight 12 rounds, and he has been dropped, though recovered well from the knockdown. Few have managed to catch him clean, but it's possible that his chin is his weakest asset, but even then there is little real proof of it.
During his career Garcia has beaten a strong line up of opponents, including He's over-come Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez, Rocky Martinez, Juan Carlos Burgos, Dejan Zlaticanin and Adrien Broner. Sadly though a 30 month break from the ring during his prime denied him some career defining bouts, including a proposed contest with Yuriorkis Gamboa. Lipinets is less proven than a number of those though is probably the naturally biggest, and hard hitting, fighter Garcia will have faced. Garcia will need to be aware of Lipinet's power and strength, but should feel at ease with his speed and skills.
We suspect that Lipinets will fight different to how he did against Kondo. Kondo is naturally the same size as Lipinets, is teak tough and would walk through a lot to get his own shots off. Garcia on the other hand will be looking to suck Lipinets into coming to him, and as the bigger fighter Lipinets will be looking to use his physicality to pressure Garcia. In a boxing contest this bout will be a huge mismatch, Garcia is too good, too smart and too quick. But Lipinets' power, strength and aggression could be a nightmare for Garcia, especially if the champion can get Garcia out of his comfort zone.
We favour Garcia to come out on top, keeping his wits and fighting his fight, but there is certainly a hint of danger here for excellent Californian fighter, who will need to avoid the power of Lipinets as best he can.
This coming Saturday is an interesting day for fight fans, and potentially the bout of the day is a bit of a hidden gem, as Kazakh born Russian Sergey Lipinets (12-0, 10) faces off with Japanese warrior Akihiro Kondo (29-6-1, 16) for the IBF Light Welterweight title. The bout is on US TV but the reality is that American fans won't be massively familiar with either man, and will instead be tuning in for some of the bigger names on offer, such as Deontay Wilder and Shawn Porter. Despite not tuning in particularly for Lipinets Vs Kondo the bout does have a good chance of stealing the show.
Of the two men the one more well known by Western fans will be Lipinets. This will be his 9th bout on US soil and follows notable wins over the likes of Cosme Rivera, Haskell Rhodes, Levan Ghvamichava and Leonardo Zappavigna. During those bouts Lipinet's has shown his exciting, heavy handed and calculated style. As with many of the rising Central Asian fighters Lipinets is well schooled and hits like a hammer, with every shot he lands being thudding. He's not a man the quickest or the most slick but he's got under-rated nuances, both offensively and defensively.
At time Lipinets can look a little slow and even one paced, though it seems like he's sometimes taking his time to read his opponent, and then slowly cranks it up after he's gotten a good look the man in the opposite corner. When he does up things he looks really good and throws some really varied body shots, with his left hook to the mid-section completely destroying the teak tough Ghvamichava last year.
Although unbeaten and talented Lipinets hasn't always had things his own way. He lost a number of rounds against Zappavigna before stopping the Aussie last December, and it does seem like the way to beat him is on points. Crowding him up close and stopping him from getting extension on his shots is key to beating him, as is out working him, without taking too much punishment. That is however easier said than done and when Lipinets lets his shots go they are damaging, and although Zappavigna had some success he was left cut, and beaten up at the end, being ground into submission.
Unless you're a Japanese fans there is a good chance you won't have seen Kondo, or even know that much about him. The is despite the fact that the 32 year old is an 11 year professional with 36 bouts and reigns as the Japanese Lightweight and WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion. Whilst you may not have seen Kondo he has been a notable part of an intriguing Japanese scene at 135 and 140, which has seen him twice face off with Yoshitaka Kato and Nihito Arakawa. Other notable foes to have faced Kondo include Patomsuk Pathompothong, Ricky Sismundo, Jimrex Jaca and Ryuji Migaki.
Like Kato and Arakawa it's fair to say that Kondo is teak tough, a proper hard nut like many Japanese fighters are. He's yet to suffer a stoppage loss, and has gone 10 or more rounds in 5 different bouts. He has shown his toughness, energy and warrior mentality, though has come up short a number of times, losing by split or majority decision 4 times, a technical decision once and a razor thin loss in one other bout. He can be out boxed and out brawled, but he's always coming to fight, and does hit harder than his record suggests, especially in recent years ith 5 straight stoppages coming into this bout.
Kondo has stated that he will be looking to use his speed here, though the truth is that he's not that quick, and the reality is that he's likely to be dragged into a war sooner rather than later. When that happens we'll see how tough Kondo is at this level, and how willing he is to take the power of Lipinets. If he can take one to land one then we could be in for something very special.
We suspect that Lipinets' better skills and heavier hands will be too much for Kondo in the middle rounds, but until we get that far we're expecting to see an all action bout. Kondo will likely try to box and move early on before getting dragged more and more into a war, before we finally get a show stealing fire fight. When that happens we expect Lipinets to come out on top, but not until the fans have had something to remember.
We don't see many Japanese fighters making their name above Super Featherweight, this Friday however we get the chance to see Light Welterweight Keita Obara (16-1-1, 15) challenge unbeaten Russian Eduard Troyanovsky (24-0, 21) for the IBF title, in a mandatory title fight.
The Russian won the title last November, stopping the then unbeaten Cesar Rene Cuenca for the belt in 6 rounds. That was Cuenca's first defense, following his title win against Ik Yang, and the Argentinian was simply unable to ever get Troyanovsky's respect. A rematch this past April followed a similar patter with Troyanovsky stopping Cuenca in 7 rounds, to record his first defense.
In the ring the Russian is a somewhat limited boxer blessed with frightening power. He can be out boxed and out moved, with his 36 year old legs not being the most sprightly, however he does cut the ring down well and if a fighter can't get his respect he doesn't mind taking one to land one. He key strength however is his power and it is vicious, with his last 14 wins all coming by T/KO, and in fact he has stopped 20 of his last 21 opponents.
Although powerful the champion is 36 years old, his work rate isn't great and he certainly hasn't got a high energy level or lighting speed. Also at 5'8” he's not naturally a big fighter at 140lbs. He's just very strong and very powerful
For Obara the bout will be only his second bout outside of Japan, with the first being his very controversial draw with Walter Castillo, in what was an IBF eliminator. In that bout he showed his skills to an international audience and clearly deserved the win over 12 rounds, most of which were clearly won by the Japanese fighter. Prior to that bout Obara had claimed the Japanese and OPBF title and had ran up 15 straight wins following a loss on debut back in 2010.
Like Troyanovsky the key strength of Obara is his power which has been responsible for 15 of his 16 career wins. He keeps that power late into a fight, as seen in his 12th round TKO win against Shinya Iwabuchi, but doesn't actually depend on the power and is instead a decent all round boxer who has solid boxing skills to go with his power. He's not defensively the best but he isn't clumsy when it comes to protecting himself.
Obara's sole loss came on debut when he ran out of stamina, after actually dropping his opponent. It was a humbling loss and one that has seen him really work on his flaws. In many ways it was the perfect loss and has lead to him becoming a better fighter faster in his career. Since that loss no one has really troubled him and he has rarely shown what he can truly do. Here we're expecting him to show his best and, hopefully, come home with the title.
The key for Obara will be using his size, speed and movement to not only get the respect of Troyanovsky but also to land the heavy leather needed to beat the Russian. For Troyanovsky the key is patience waiting for the opportunity to land his fearsome power shots. If Troyanovsky can land clean then there is a really serious chance he will be able to stop Obara, if he can't stop him we suspect the score-cards will favour the Russian. With that in mind we suspect that Obara will be looking for a stoppage, probably in the second half of the fight, making the most of the fact Troyanovsky has little experience going beyond 7 rounds.
The odds are in favour of the Russian but we suspect Obara will score the upset here, with the bout being unlikely to go the distance either way.
Despite it's huge size China has been one of boxing's great under-achievers with just a solitary world champion, Xiong Zhao Zhong. Whilst a lot of that success, or rather lack of, has been down to the way China failed to embrace professional sports until recently we've yet to see the big wave of Chinese fighters in or around the top of the sport. Whilst we have seen Chinese fighters fall short recently, with both Zou Shiming and Ma Yi Ming proving to be a long way from being world class.
Up next for Chinese boxing is the enigmatic Ik Yang (19-0-0-1, 14) who looks to claim the vacant IBF Light Welterweight title as he takes on fellow unbeaten Cesar Rene Cuenca (47-0-0-2, 2), from the boxing hotbed of Argentina.
Unlike Ming and Shiming it's fair to say there is something a little bit special about Yang. It's hard to say “what” is special about him, but there is certainly something that stands out about him. It could be the fact he seems to fight like a wild man with taunting and shots from very unorthodox angles, it could be peculiar defense or his personality but he's a special fighter and potentially the figure of Chinese boxing movement over the next few years.
In the ring Yang is a showman who brings a languageless charisma to the ring. Whilst there he can box and he can fight. Although crude he brings a bang and real excitement, something Chinese boxing has lacked at times, despite the success of Rex Tso. Although perhaps lacking something upstairs it does seem like Yang knows how to play an audience and how to get the media to pay attention to him. In fact in Yang's Macau debut, back in June 2012, he actually stole his show with his boxing and got rave reviews by many who saw him in action.
Since making his Macau debut more than 3 years ago Yang has become a staple in the area with 4 fights there, including his excellent win over Patomsuk Pathompothong in March. It was that win that opened the door to the “Wildman of Chinese boxing” to get his world title fight, though at the time it wasn't clear who he'd be fighting, or when.
Since Yang's win over Patomsuk we've seen American fighter Lamont Peterson get stripped of his title, and open up a fight between Yang and Argentina's infamous Cuenca, a man with a 4.08% stoppage rate.
Cuenca boasts one of the long unbeaten runs in the sport. At 49 fights he has actually gone more fights with out a loss than Floyd Mayweather Jr, however he has never competed close to the level of Mayweather. In fact in his 49 fights it's hard to find too many recognisable opponents. His most notable foes are probably Albert Mensah, Carlos Wilfredo Vilches and Jose Alfaro. Good fighters in their own right, but not sensational fighters by any means.
Cuenca's most recent bout was his contest with Mensah back in May 2014. That bout was an IBF eliminator and it showed a lot of what Cuenca is about. He's a fight who uses a lot of quick and intelligent movement whilst using his jab as his key weapon. He's got good timing and is technically well schooled though his lack of power is real issue and he often looks a little predictable fighting almost entirely behind his southpaw jab, though he does have a sharp straight left. It's also notable that he seems to slap a lot of his punches and rarely puts his weight fully into a shot.
Something that is notable about Cuenca's past fights is that they often take place in large rings allowing him to make the most of his movement. What's notable is that he won't have that same privilege in Macau. Instead he'll be dumped into a relatively small ring where space will be at a premium and where he'll be forced to use a lot more energy to stay away from his foe.
Watching Cuenca is actually really interesting for his movement with is genuinely very intelligent. However he's now 34 and hasn't fought in a year. Those things will almost certainly effect his energy, timing and sharpness, all of which he depends on when he's at his best. If he runs out of steam or can't control a wild man like Yang he could find himself in a lot of trouble, especially late on.
We're expecting to see a less than sharp Cuenca in action and we're expecting to see him put into a ring that isn't friendly to his style. If we're right then the Argentinian will find himself forced to fight more than usual. Although technically a much better boxer than Yang we're expecting to see Cuenca bulled about, rushed, and tagged by caveman like shots from the Chinese fighter who will always look the busier man. Given Cuenca is quite negative but appears to be tough we're expect to see him make schedule but lose a wide decision with the judges not buying in to his hit and run strategy.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.