This Saturday live on Showtime from the Freeman Coliseum, undefeated three-division world champion Mikey Garcia (37-0, 30 KO’s) of Moreno Valley, California, by way of Oxnard, California, will go toe-to-toe and look to make boxing history as he faces the undefeated IBF Super Lightweight World Champion, Sergey Lipinets (13-0, 10 KO’s) of Martuk, Kazakhstan.The fight between Garcia and Lipinets was originally set to take place on February 10, but Garcia’s journey for a fourth division world title had to be postponed due to a hand injury Lipinets sustained while in training. Garcia is regarded by many as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world and a victory Saturday night will make him only the third boxer in modern history to hold titles at Featherweight (126), Super Featherweight (130), Lightweight (135) and Super Lightweight (140) — a feat only accomplished by presumably two future first ballot hall of Famers in Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao.
For Lipinets, Garcia will definitely be the toughest opponent of his career. Lipinets captured the vacant IBF Super Lightweight title last November in a tough back and forth battle with Akihiro Kondo at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and recently stated, “Getting the title is one thing, but keeping the title is a more difficult task. 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.”
Garcia, who is a huge -3000 favorite coming into the fight, isn’t overlooking Lipinets.Garcia said to Showtime that “We’re expecting a tough competitive fight. Lipinets is a fighter who is always dangerous.He has power in both hands and he’s not afraid to let his hands go. He’s also willing to get hit, so that he can hit you back. That’s what makes him dangerous.”
Garcia went on to say, “Last year was a great year for my return. It started with a world title win for a third division title and then I had the big victory over Adrien Broner in the summer. I’m looking for even bigger things in 2018 and this last year really paved the path for that. Winning a fourth title was the big draw for me in making this fight happen. To make history like that is something that really motivates me. I know that I have a lot more to accomplish in the sport, but this is a great start. This is the direction I want to go in.”
Garcia has the experience and the talent to easily defeat Lipinets. He can box from the outside or punish his Kazakhstan opponent from the inside.
In the co-main event, the Cuban defector Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KO’s) will rematch Kiryl Relikh (24-2, 19 KO’s) for the vacant WBA Super Lightweight Title. Last May, both fighters gave fight fans an all-out war, but is was Barthelemy who pulled off a very tough unanimous decision victory despite being a very closely contested battle. With a victory in this rematch, Barthelemy would become the first Cuban boxer ever to win world titles in three different weight classes. Barthelemy blames his diet for his poor performance in his last fight and stated to Showtime that “My nutrition and physical condition took a toll on me last time I fought. I didn’t think my body was going to react the way it did when I got into the ring. My legs really gave out on me. But not now. This time around, I’m coming with a whole new game plan and I’m not going to have to force myself to adapt to Relikh’s strategy. The first time we fought, I felt like I had to fight his fight. I had to make adjustments in the ring and exchange a lot with him. I took a lot of punishment. I’m definitely not looking past Relikh. I’m really focused on this fight. I want to win this fight. I’m looking for big names after. I can fight anyone between 135 and 147 now. Broner, Garcia, Lomachenko; it’s only big names what I’m after next.”
In this rematch there is a lot more at stake now that a title is on the line. Barthelemy will have to use his five-inch reach advantage and box as Relikh will try to cut off the ring, come inside and work the body of the Cuban. I see another tough match for Barthelemy, and styles do make fights. My prediction is that Relikh will break Barthelemy down by the later rounds, and pull off a very close split decision. With that being said and two Super Lightweight Titles on the line Saturday night, the winner between Barthelemy and Relikh will be in a great position to unify their title with the winner of the Garcia vs Lipinets matchup.
In another intriguing fight on the stacked card, Richard Commey (25-2, 22 KO’s) of Accra, Ghana, Africa will battle Alejandro “El Charro” Luna (22-0, 15 KO’s) from Bellflower, California in a IBF World lightweight title eliminator, giving the winner the opportunity to face the IBF Lightweight World Champion Robert Easter Jr.“I think this is a good fight where neither of us are the favorite,” said Commey. “After losing two close decisions there is natural pressure to go for the knockout. But I believe that the judges will be fair and reward me if it goes the distance so I can earn another shot at the title. This is my first fight with Andre Rozier and I’m inspired working in his gym with guys like Daniel Jacobs and Sadam Ali. I’m 100 percent focused on clearly beating Luna and earning my rematch with Robert Easter Jr.”
This matchup puts an unknown opponent in Luna up against a world-class competitor in Commey who is a solid fighter. His only two losses, both by split decision, to Robert Easter and Denis Shafikov could have went either way. This will no doubt be Luna’s toughest fight of his young career and it may be to soon. My prediction, the experience in big fights will be the factor, although Luna will give Commey a hell of a fight, Commey will adjust and outbox Luna to pull off the unanimous decision victory.