Custio Clayton considered this the type of opportunity a 33-year-old Canadian couldn’t turn down.
That’s why the undefeated welterweight contender gladly accepted a fight against Sergey Lipinets on approximately two weeks’ notice. They’ll fight Saturday night for the vacant IBF interim welterweight title in a main event Showtime will televise from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“This is amazing,” Clayton told BoxingScene.com. “This is the kind of opportunity you prepare for your whole life, to get on this type of stage.”
Clayton is unbeaten, but he hasn’t fought in the United States since he turned pro in December 2014. The Dartmouth, Nova, Scotia, native hasn’t been showcased on American television, either.
“This fight right here, it means a lot to me,” Clayton said. “It’ll be a life-changer for me. It’ll show that I do belong with the elite. And a win in a good way would actually give me some big fights, guys like Spence, Garcia, Crawford and all of them other names.”
The Lipinets-Clayton winner will find himself in prime position to fight the Errol Spence Jr.-Danny Garcia winner sometime in 2021. Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) will defend his IBF and WBC welterweight titles against Garcia (36-2, 21 KOs) in a FOX Sports Pay-Per-View main event December 5 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Clayton (18-0, 12 KOs) accepted the Lipinets fight once Lipinets’ original opponent, Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, withdrew because visa issues prevented him from traveling to the United States from Malaysia. The 2012 Olympian first found out replacing Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9 KOs) was a possibility nearly five weeks ago.
“I knew I was on standby and it was a possibility,” Clayton said. “I’ve been preparing as if I were fighting Lipinets. You’re sitting there, like, ‘Am I gonna get it? Or am I not?’ But I stayed focused, stayed in the gym, and I got the call like two weeks ago now, for sure, about actually taking the fight.”
Clayton isn’t concerned about taking a difficult fight on short notice because he doesn’t allow himself to get out of shape.
“I’m always in the gym,” Clayton said. “That’s one thing about me, I’m always training. It’s not the same when you’re not training for an opponent, but I’m always in the gym.”
The Ottawa resident respects Lipinets’ strength and toughness, but he is confident he can pull off an upset.
“I wanna show them a different type of fight,” Clayton said. “I think anyone who’s saw me fight is looking for one type of style. But to be real with you, I think my boxing IQ is one of the biggest things for me, and me showing that part, that I can do more than just come forward, I think I’ll get a lot of attention.”
Kazakhstan’s Lipinets is slightly more than 2-1 favorite over Clayton. The Lipinets-Clayton clash will headline Showtime’s three-bout broadcast, which is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
In the fight before Lipinets-Clayton, Sacramento’s Xavier Martinez (15-0, 11 KOs) and the Dominican Republic’s Claudio Marrero (24-4, 17 KOs) will square off in a 12-round, 130-pound WBA elimination match. The telecast will open with a 10-round junior welterweight bout between Baltimore’s Malik Hawkins (18-0, 11 KOs) and Puerto Rico’s Subriel Matias (15-1, 15 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.