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.
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.