Sergey Lipinets remains on the hunt to challenge for a welterweight strap, hoping to move one step closer with a win in his next fight.
That path could potentially become compromised although the next few days will tell the tale.
The former 140-pound titlist remains on course for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) interim welterweight title fight versus unbeaten contender Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9KOs). Their bout is due to headline the October 10 edition of Showtime Championship Boxing, live from Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The winner will be in position to challenge for the true IBF welterweight title held by Errol Spence, who defends that strap along with the World Boxing Council (WBC) belt versus Danny Garcia on November 21.
Challenging such plans at the moment is Abdukakhorov’s ability to leave his native Uzbekistan. The process to secure a travel visa has proven troublesome, given the backlog due to travel restrictions stemming from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Sources have informed BoxingScene.com that the fight is still on scheduled to proceed as-is, with the sense that Abdukakhorov—who is currently training in Tashkent, Uzbekistan—will see his paperwork processed in time to make the trip abroad.
Unfortunately, there is a deadline in place before such a decision has to be made to advance to a backup plan.
Ever since returning to the sport, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) has assigned at least one standby opponent per show, in the event that a boxer from the main event or chief support experiences any other matter that results in not being able to move forward with a fight. To date, it has only affected one main event—the first one out the gate, when Tramaine Williams stepped in to face Angelo Leo in the August 1 Showtime main event—for a vacant junior featherweight title fight—when Stephen Fulton tested positive for COVID-19.
Veteran welterweight contender Chris van Heerden (28-2-1, 12KOs) has been assigned that role for the October 10 show, three credible sources confirmed to BoxingScene.com. The issue with moving forward with such a fight, however, is the fact that Van Heerden is not ranked by the IBF, which would force Lipinets to enter a non-title affair while waiting for an interim title fight with Abdukakhorov to resurface.
Such a path would also conflict with the belief shared by Abdukakhorov that his bout with Lipinets would simply endure a delay long enough to get him in the U.S., as he suggested to local publication Olamsport.com.
“I'm currently training in Tashkent. The visa issue should be resolved in 2-3 days, otherwise the fight will be postponed to November,” Abdukakhorov believes. “Top Rank has also been informed about this.
“In 2-3 days we will… get a visa. If I don't, my fight will be postponed to November.”
Sources inform BoxingScene.com that no plans are in place to postpone the October 10 show, nor is it likely that the entire main event would be removed from the show.
For now, both boxers continue to hope for the best.
Abdukakhorov pushed his way to the top of the contender queue following a technical decision win over former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo last October in Philadelphia. At the time, he was prepared to next challenge for the IBF title although that status was met with complications due to Spence suffering injuries in a single car-crash earlier in the month.
An official request was filed for Abdukakhorov and Lipinets to vie for some form of the IBF title, having been informed of a fight for the interim belt after Spence confirmed his general timetable for a ring return. The bout was once targeted for May, but was never formally announced as the ongoing global health crisis wiped out the entire spring schedule.
All told, Lipinets (16-1, 12KOs)—a 31-year old from Kazakhstan who now lives in Woodland Hills, California—has been out of the ring since a 2nd round knockout of Philippines Jayar Inson last July. Lipinets was originally due to face John Molina, who withdrew from their Fox Sports Pay-Per-View preliminary bout after falling ill during fight week.
The circumstances left Lipinets to face a southpaw as a late replacement in a less significant fight than originally planned. History could repeat itself should Abdukakhorov have to withdraw, leaving Lipinets to face left-handed van Heerden on less than two weeks’ notice, all while still having to wait at least for his next fight in order to contend for a title of sorts.
For now, all originally involved parties continue to hope for the best and that things remain as presently scheduled.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox