By Keith Idec
Mikey Garcia’s search for a big challenge in his next fight has brought him to Sergey Lipinets.
Garcia, the unbeaten WBC lightweight champion, will remain at 140 pounds to challenge Lipinets in a battle of unbeaten boxers for the IBF junior welterweight title February 10 in San Antonio. Showtime, which officially announced the fight Thursday afternoon, will televise it from The Alamodome.
The telecast also will include a rematch between Cuba’s Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs, 1 NC) and Belarus’ Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KOs), this time for the vacant WBA super lightweight championship. Barthelemy beat Relikh by unanimous decision in their first fight, a 12-rounder May 20 in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
“It is a dream [come true] to have the opportunity to become a four-division champion,” Garcia said. “San Antonio has some of the greatest boxing fans in the country. … I can’t wait to give the fans in Texas and those watching at home on Showtime another great performance.”
Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs) moved up from 135 pounds to 140 for his last fight, a 12-round, unanimous-decision victory over former four-division champion Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KOs, 1 NC) on July 29 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. After beating Broner, the 29-year-old Garcia negotiated with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions for fights against Miguel Cotto and later Jorge Linares, but turned down those opportunities because he didn’t want to sign a promotional deal with Golden Boy (Cotto) and other reasons (Linares).
He also had discussions regarding a fight against unbeaten IBF lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr., but ultimately chose to battle Lipinets.
Kazakhstan’s Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) defeated Japan’s Akihiro Kondo (29-7-1, 16 KOs) by unanimous decision in their 12-round fight November 4 at Barclays Center to win the IBF 140-pound championship. Lipinets, of Beverly Hills, California, won the IBF championship Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs) gave up when he decided to move up to welterweight a few months ago.
“Getting the title is one thing, but keeping the title is a more difficult task,” Lipinets said. “I’m not about to give it away to anybody. No disrespect to Mikey Garcia or anybody else out there, but I’m keeping my title. Beating Mikey Garcia will put me in the elite of boxing, where I believe I belong.
“I’m happy my team was able to put this great fight together. I can promise you this won’t be a snoozer. It’s going to be an action-packed fight for sure.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.