After a delay of one-month, this Saturday, Mikey Garcia receives his shot at becoming a four-weight world champion in a career that for many is still yet to take off.
For Garcia, a defining win to match a thus far faultless career is all that he is waiting on. As of right now, Garcia is in limbo. A step back down to 135lbs gives him potential match-ups with Jorge Linares or Vasyl Lomachenko, while a step up to Welterweight gives Garcia the options of Terence Crawford, Errol Spence Jr or Keith Thurman.
For the champion heading into Saturday night, he has found a career altering fight very early in his professional tenor. Sergey Lipinets, the IBF Super Lightweight champ makes a maiden defence of the title he won back in November.
The Russian, born in Kazakhstan, impressed when defeating Akihiro Kondo on points, but as another out of the Eastern bloc, he did not stand out above the crowd, which to most people’s guess would be why Garcia and his team were quick to offer Lipinets such an opportunity.
Garcia 37-0(30KO’s) is an experienced campaigner, and knows his way around all four corners of a boxing ring. Navigating himself through a fight comes easy to him, which is what will help him grab the initiative in this fight even before it has begun.
As for during the fight, he holds pretty much every advantage in there too. The speed, the power and the boxing all reside in Garcia’s corner, and with this he can make this a rather routine relinquishing of the belt.
It will not quite come as quickly or empathically as it did when he demolished Dejan Zlaticanin in 3 rounds, but the levels displayed will be just as evident.
Lipinets 13-0(10KO’s) can put the brakes on a tough start, giving Garcia something to think about aside from steamrolling to another world championship.
With an early knockdown or knockdowns survived, Lipinets will remain game as he sees himself into the second half of the fight. With less oomph in his punches late on, Garcia may struggle to close the show inside schedule, but with enough of a lead, and a growing sense that Lipinets is simply surviving, the referee or the champions’ corner will call a halt to proceedings after the 9th.
World championship boxing takes centre stage on the undercard too, as Rances Barthelemy and Kiryl Relikh meet for a second time in the co-feature.
The first contest ended in victory for Barthelemy 26-0(13KO’s), but by far wider margins than what seemed fair. Now the return takes place for the vacant WBA Super Lightweight title.
Both fighters hit the deck in an entertaining first meeting – it was also the successive fights that Cuba’s Barthelemy has been dropped to the canvas.
Belarus’ Relikh 21-2(19KO’s) is hoping to snap a two-fight losing streak, having been outpointed for this same title by Ricky Burns in 2016.
Barthelemy has been burdened by recent inactivity, just one fight in each of the last two years – neither fighter has fought since their clash last May.
Relikh found a way on to the inside last time, and he can do so again, but Barthelemy’s length and power make him the most awkward of customers. Relikh must yet again succumb to a host of punishment before being able to inflict his own damage.
Knockdowns are likely again in another fun contest, but while the scorecards will be similar to last time, it will be a slightly more comfortable night for Barthelemy.
Ghana’s Richard Commey is still vying for a rematch with Robert Easter Jr – and will get his second chance to reach that target in another eliminator for the IBF Lightweight crown.
Commey 25-2(22KO’s) lost by the tightest of margins when Easter Jr was crowned as champion, and then felt unlucky to lose to Denis Shafikov via another split decision.
Now the potential bogeyman of the division will look to set up a rematch and derail the rise of favourite Alejandro Luna 22-0(15KO’s).
Luna has not been perfect on his way up, but he holds size and power that could make him a force in the division.
Commey is a strong puncher, good boxer and forces a fast pace, making this an acid test for the 26-year old Californian. But his own aggressive approach can ensure that this is a nip-and-tuck fight that the younger man feels will tilt in his favour when the fight reaches the judges’ scorecards.
Commey will also be involved in close contest at this level, and not finding that separation will come to bite him again on Saturday, as Luna emerges victorious after 12 hard fought rounds.
photo credit (Showtime, Youtube)