By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Akihiro Kondo took Sergey Lipinets’ power very well and landed some punishing punches of his own Saturday night.
It still wasn’t enough for the game Japanese contender to win the vacant IBF junior welterweight title. The heavily favored Lipinets overcame a cut to the middle of his forehead and some troublesome moments to win a unanimous decision over Kondo in their 12-round fight on the Deontay Wilder-Bermane Stiverne undercard at Barclays Center.
Kondo appeared to deserve better, however, than the lopsided loss he suffered on each of the three scorecards. All three judges – Carlos Ortiz (118-110), Anthony Paolillo (117-111) and John Poturaj (117-111) – scored the competitive fight for Kazakhstan’s Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) by large margins.
Kondo didn’t complain about the decision, though.
“It was a fair decision,” Kondo said. “He hit me with a lot of hard punches and I felt like I needed at least a knockdown in the last round.”
Tokyo’s Kondo (29-7-1, 16 KOs) impressed in his United States debut, despite losing. Kondo hasn’t been knocked down or knocked out in 37 professional fights and showed why while walking through everything Lipinets hit him with.
The 32-year-old contender displayed plenty of toughness and boxing ability, and made what was expected to be a one-sided fight highly competitive.
“I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to show any pain or fear from his punches,” Kondo said. “I was determined to keep fighting all night. I’m going to go back and get stronger and stronger to get back in the ring. I’m thankful for the opportunity and I congratulate Sergey on a great performance. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The aggressive Kondo backed up Lipinets several times, including late in the 12th round, when Lipinets needed to duck and dodge out of harm’s way.
Lipinets clipped Kondo with a right uppercut with around 45 seconds to go in the eighth round. Kondo came back, though, to land a stiff jab and straight right hand of his own that backed up Lipinets.
Kondo pressed the action throughout the seventh round, as blood flowed from a cut in the middle of Lipinets’ forehead.
Lipinets suffered a cut to the middle of his forehead just after the midway point of the sixth round. An accidental clash of heads caused the cut, which prompted a brief break in the action with 1:05 to go in the sixth.
“I think the scorecards were accurate, but it was a good fight,” Lipinets said. “The head-butt really impaired my vision and it led to me walking into some stupid shots.”
Kondo knocked Lipinets off balance with a right hand to the middle of his forehead in the fifth round. That punch appeared to wake up Lipinets, who fired back hard shots of his own to keep Kondo from capitalizing on that momentum.
Lipinets countered Kondo with a left hook to the jaw right around the two-minute mark of the the fourth round.
Lipinets connected with a short left hook about 40 seconds into the third round that bloodied Kondo’s nose and later drilled Kondo with a right uppercut. Kondo continued to miss with his overhand right in the third round, as Lipinets was able to move away each time Kondo threw it.
Lipinets won the IBF 140-pound championship Terence Crawford gave up shortly after he won it by knocking out Namibia’s Julius Indongo in the third round of their full title unification fight August 19 in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The IBF allowed Indongo to put off a mandatory defense agains Lipinets for the chance to make a purse that exceeded $1 million for facing Crawford. Lipinets entered Saturday’s fight as the IBF’s No. 1 contender at 140 pounds, two spots ahead of the third-ranked Kondo.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.