By Keith Idec
Sergey Lipinets suspects Mikey Garcia accepted their fight because Garcia felt confident once he and his team took a close look at Lipinets’ last bout.
Lipinets thinks they noticed him getting hit a lot by Akihiro Kondo and were encouraged by his inability to knock out the Japanese contender. The Kazakhstan native believes, however, that Garcia and others have underrated Kondo’s toughness.
Kondo had six defeats on his record before facing Lipinets on November 4, but he hadn’t been knocked out, or even knocked down, as a professional fighter. Lipinets, 28, went the distance for only the third time in his pro career and drew some criticism for defensive deficiencies Kondo exploited during their 12-round fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The newly crowned champion will make his first title defense Saturday night against Garcia at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio (Showtime; 10:15 p.m. ET).
“I believe that a lot of people underestimated Kondo when he fought me,” Lipinets told BoxingScene.com. “I hit that guy with everything I had, but he didn’t go down. He didn’t budge and he kept on coming. As tough as he was, I had to show the diversity that I possess as well. I had to change my game plan as the fight went on.”
Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) suffered a nasty gash in the middle of his forehead when their heads accidentally clashed late in the sixth round. Lipinets’ vision was affected by that head-butt and he dealt with blood flowing from that cut at points during the second half of their fight.
“When the head-butt occurred, the blood was dripping right into my eyes,” Lipinets said. “I got hit with a stupid shot that I didn’t see coming because of the blood in my eyes. I had to readjust then and I had to go back to boxing. I think I showed in that fight that, first of all, I can stand and fight toe-to-toe, second, that I can take a punch, and third, if I have to box, I’ll box your ass.”
The former kickboxing champion took several flush punches from his stubborn opponent, yet displayed a reliable chin and defeated Kondo (29-7-1, 16 KOs) by large margins on each of the three scorecards (118-110, 117-111, 117-111). His wide win aside, Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) is consistently listed as a 20-1 favorite over Lipinets.
Even Garcia, a three-division champion from Oxnard, California, seems surprised by the skepticism of Lipinets’ chances of winning their 12-round, 140-pound title fight.
“Just the fact that they took the fight goes to show that they believe they’re gonna win,” Lipinets said. “You don’t take fights you think you’re gonna lose, especially at that level.
“Maybe they looked at my last fight, when I won the championship, and they saw something, that I have vulnerabilities of some kind, that I have holes in my game. Whatever they saw, it’s gonna be different when we step in the ring.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.