By Keith Idec
Stephen Espinoza envisions Mikey Garcia-Sergey Lipinets unfolding as a much more competitive fight than some might anticipate.
Espinoza noticed a very motivated Lipinets during recent press conferences for their February 10 bout and is looking forward to seeing how Garcia performs against a heavy-handed, 140-pound opponent Espinoza thinks is being underestimated. Showtime, which Espinoza serves as an executive, will televise Garcia-Lipinets from the Alamodome in San Antonio.
“One of the things that really has motivated Lipinets is he knows and sees that people are taking him lightly,” Espinoza, Showtime Sports’ executive vice president and general manager, told BoxingScene.com. “He’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s a big puncher and he’s all-action, a hundred miles an hour from the opening bell.
“I can confidently say it’s going to be an action-packed fight and people are going to be surprised that he’s as big a challenge to Mikey as he is. I know Mikey is taking it very seriously. He won’t be surprised, but I think that people who haven’t followed Lipinets as closely will be surprised at how competitive that fight will be.”
Espinoza respects Garcia’s decision to remain at 140 pounds to challenge a dangerous opponent, when the unbeaten WBC lightweight champion could’ve moved back down to 135 pounds for title unification fights against WBA champ Jorge Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) or IBF champ Robert Easter Jr. (20-0, 14 KOs). Espinoza acknowledged that Kazakhstan’s Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) isn’t well-known, but the IBF junior welterweight champion is physically larger than Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) and can punch.
“Candidly, the Linares fight probably is less risk,” Espinoza said. “Although Linares is a really skilled fighter, he doesn’t have a lot of power and not a whole lot of anything that Mikey hasn’t seen before. And he’s more in Mikey’s weight class. For Mikey to go in a different direction, a bigger guy, a much more dangerous puncher and a much more all-out, aggressive pressure fighter, it definitely entails more risk.
“So I think in terms of all the options he had on the table – not all the fights were makeable, but all the theoretical options – I’d say Robert Easter and Sergey Lipinets were the two highest-risk. And those were the two that he gravitated to. Ulitmately, it was Lipinets that was the most makeable deal and the easiest one to fit into the schedule, but that says a lot about who Mikey is as a fighter.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.