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.
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.