By Keith Idec
Mikey Garcia thinks he is a better fighter at lightweight, but he showed Saturday night why he is boxing’s best 140-pounder, too.
Garcia became the first fighter to drop Sergey Lipinets, took his powerful opponent’s best shots all night and out-boxed Lipinets to win a 12-round unanimous decision at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. The heavily favored Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) won easily on all three scorecards to take the IBF junior welterweight title from Kazakhstan’s Lipinets (13-1, 10 KOs).
Judges Mark Calo-oy (116-111), Julie Lederman (117-110) and Nelson Vazquez (117-110) all scored the fight for Garcia.
The 30-year-old Garcia, one of the sport’s top technicians, became a world champion in a fourth weight class. The Oxnard, California, native still owns the WBC lightweight title, and previously held the WBO featherweight championship and the WBO super featherweight crown.
“Winning this fourth world title, in a fourth division, it’s an honor to get to be mentioned with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez,” Garcia told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring. “It’s just a huge honor for me. I’m very grateful for everything that’s happening to me right now. I’m just very excited, very emotional right now.”
The gracious Garcia won the IBF 140-pound championship from Lipinets that the former kickboxing champ claimed by beating Japan’s Akihiro Kondo (29-7-1, 16 KOs) by unanimous decision in his last fight, November 4 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Garcia’s victory Saturday night was his second straight against a top 140-pound opponent. Before beating Lipinets, Garcia convincingly out-boxed former four-division champ Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs, 1 NC) on July 29 at Barclays Center.
“He came in exactly as I expected – very tough, very determined, very hungry,” Garcia said. “He’s a strong fighter and we had to work with angles, footwork, behind the jab, because we knew that he was gonna be there for a long night. We knew he was very determined, and he’s very dangerous with that overhand right and those left hooks. So we had to be very careful, but we had a great game plan and we were able to prevail.”
Lipinets kept going after Garcia right until the final bell, but he couldn’t hurt Garcia even with his hardest rights and lefts. Garcia and Lipinets drilled each other with left hooks when there were 42 seconds remaining in the 12th round.
A right uppercut by Lipinets snapped back Garcia’s head at the 2:22 mark of the 11th round. Garcia wasn’t hurt by that shot, though, and was able to connect with right hands that kept Lipinets honest.
Lipinets connected with a left hand that backed Garcia into the ropes with 1:20 remaining in the ninth round. Just as he did when Lipinets landed power punches earlier, Garcia came right back to prevent Lipinets from gaining confidence.
A round after going down, Lipinets had some success in the eighth round. Lipinets landed a sharp left hook up top that moved Garcia backward, but Garcia fired back with accurate right hands that made those three minutes very competitive.
Lipinets hit Garcia with a flush left hook with just under two minutes to go in the seventh round. That initiated a fierce exchange that ended when Garcia drilled Lipinets with a left hook that dropped Lipinets for the first time in his career at the 1:47 mark of the seventh.
A stunned Lipinets got up and appeared to finish the round on steady legs. Garcia did connect with several hard right hands after Lipinets got off the canvas.
Lipinets attempted to trap Garcia against the ropes and in a corner early in the sixth round. Garcia used his jab to move out of those situations.
Lipinets landed a solid left hook with about 30 seconds left in the sixth, but Garcia took it well. Garcia also snuck a right hand around Lipinets’ guard later in the sixth.
Garcia clipped Lipinets with a left hook to the top of his head as Lipinets leaned forward late in the fifth round.
Garcia connected with two very hard right hands just after the halfway point of the fourth round. Those flush punches didn’t prevent Lipinets from coming forward, but he rarely moved his head as he tried to attack Garcia.
Lipinets hit Garcia with a left hook about 30 seconds into the third round. That shot made Garcia fire back with lefts and rights that halted Lipinets’ momentum.
Toward the end of the third, Garcia opened up with a left-right combination that landed with around 45 seconds to go. A few seconds later, Garcia landed an overhand right to the side of Lipinets’ head.
Garcia began landing his overhand right in the second round. He clipped Lipinets with a very hard right hand with just under a minute remaining in the second round.
About 20 seconds later, Garcia and Lipinets landed left hooks at the same time. Garcia seemed to get the better of that exchange, as Lipinets was knocked off balance.
Garcia began bleeding from the nose during the second round as well.
Lipinets seemed determined in the first round to show that he would be much better defensively Saturday night than he was when he won the title against Kondo. He slipped, moved and mostly stayed out of Garcia’s punching range during that round.
After 11 more rounds, most of which Garcia won, the 28-year-old Lipinets lamented that he couldn’t overcome Garcia’s precision and intelligence.
“It was probably just experience that took over at some point,” Lipinets said through a translator. “I realize Mikey is a great fighter. Mikey can obviously crack. … I’ll be back. It’s a learning experience.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.