A bout which has been in discussion for months appears to have finally found a home.
Or at least a fight date.
The long-ago agreed-to welterweight clash between Kudratillo Abdukakhorov and Sergey Lipinets will likely land on a May 16 show to be presented by Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), sources from both sides have alerted BoxingScene.com. A location has yet to be determined although the greater Los Angeles area has been mentioned as a candidate to host the bout, which will come with the International Boxing Federation (IBF) interim welterweight title at stake. The winner will be first in line for a mandatory shot at unified welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr.
Given the political affiliation for both boxers—in addition to neither Abdukakhorov nor Lipinets being particularly high on the list of any welterweight’s targeted list—the fight proved relatively easy in regard to both sides coming to terms. It was a fight both wanted even when it was just planned as a time-marking clash while Spence (26-0, 21KOs) continued to recover from injuries sustained in a single car crash last October.
The IBF sweetened the pot in January, officially approving an interim title to be made available for the event. Both sides were offered an invitation to contend for the title, agreeing to do so almost instantaneously as such a fight had been discussed as far back as last fall.
Original designs called for the clash to land on the undercard of the recent heavyweight title fight rematch between Tyson Fury (30-0-1, 21KOs) and Deontay Wilder (42-1-1, 41KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The pairing would have been the perfect complement to the show’s theme, as Abdukakharov and Fury both fight under the Top Rank banner, while Lipinets and Wilder are both represented by adviser Al Haymon and his PBC conglomerate.
Those plans were scrapped due to a delay in getting an interim title approved in time, although Top Rank’s Carl Moretti and TGB Promotions’ Tom Brown—who negotiated on behalf of PBC—were able to come to financial terms without much of an issue. However, enough bickering over who would gain control of the fight led to missed opportunities to have the fight land earlier in the spring.
Three separate fight dates were offered, with both sides ultimately agreeing to the latter of the three.
Uzbekistan’s Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9KOs) has long served as the mandatory challenger to the IBF strap which Spence claimed in a May 2017 knockout win over England’s Kell Brook. The unbeaten Texan has since added the World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight title following a spirited 12-round win over Shawn Porter in their unification bout and Fight of the Year contender last September.
Shortly after the win, however, Spence survived a horrific scare after suffering non life-threatening injuries sustained in a single car crash last October in downtown Dallas. The 29-year old was ejected from his sports car, which was totaled in the wreck, and spent six days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) before being released and subsequently charged with a single misdemeanor count of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).
Abdukakhorov took a risky stay busy fight last October, outpointing former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo in an ESPN-televised bout from Philadelphia. The 26-year old Uzbek was prepared to take another voluntary fight while awaiting word on Spence’s status, but with plans put on hold once the possibility arose of fighting for an interim or even full version of the title.
Spence announced last December his intention to return to the ring this summer. Awaiting him will be two mandatory title defenses, with medical records indicating he should be fully fit to fight by no later than July.
The medical status was key in an interim title being made available by the IBF, with Abdukakhorov first in line as the sanctioning body’s highest-rated contender.
Lipinets (16-1, 12KOs) fits into the picture as the next-highest rated contender. The no-nonsense former 140-pound titlist has sought to make his way back to the title scene ever losing his strap in a 12-round decision to Mikey Garcia last March.
Three wins have followed, including a 10th round knockout of former two-division title claimant Lamont Peterson in their Fight-of-the-Year level war this past March. He’s since followed with a two-round wipeout of Jayar Inson, a late replacement for an ill John Molina Jr. last July in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox