Garcia Defeats Lipinets in Great Action Fight

By Caryn A. Tate on March 10, 2018
Garcia Defeats Lipinets in Great Action Fight
It was without a doubt Garcia's toughest fight so far. (Amanda Wescott/SHOWTIME)

The main attraction proved to be exactly what fight fans want to see—two top level fighters showcasing their elite skills in the ring together…

From the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas, four of the top super lightweight boxers were featured on Showtime Championship Boxing. The main attraction proved to be exactly what fight fans want to see—two top level fighters showcasing their elite skills in the ring together. In modern boxing, there has been too much perceived ducking, too much talking on social media, and one-sided set-up fights, and it was truly refreshing to see two top fighters making it hard for each other in the ring.

The anticipated main event featured current lightweight WBC world champion Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) moving up in weight to challenge IBF super lightweight world title holder Sergey “Samurai” Lipinets (13-1, 10 KOs). Garcia is a three-division world champion and, as he said in my interview with him, the Lipinets fight was offered to him and it excited him due to the possibility of it adding to his already very bright legacy. As he stated leading up to the bout, if he were to defeat Lipinets, it would be his fourth world title in as many divisions, putting him in very elite company (like legends Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez).

But Lipinets, while a fresh champion making his first defense, was not going to be an easy task. He’s a former kickboxer whose coach, Buddy McGirt, was a former world champion boxer himself and an excellent fighter on his own merits. McGirt is also a superb trainer, and he’s helped mold Lipinets into a very promising fighter with an athletic and very Americanized style—unusual for an athlete from Kazakhstan. While much of the pre-fight talk was about Garcia, with most people overlooking Lipinets altogether, the champion should be praised for taking such a tough fight for his first title defense and in only his fourteenth professional fight. As Lipinets stated, he cares a lot about his legacy and wanted to prove that he belonged at the top of the division.

The Garcia-Lipinets bout was originally scheduled for February, but when Lipinets injured his right hand, the contest was rescheduled at the suggestion of the Texas Athletic Commission doctor. Prior to the bout, the Showtime commentators stated that Lipinets had said his “hand is hungry” and he was “going to be feeding it tonight.”

Lipinets came out feinting from the start, while Garcia used his excellent footwork to move around. Both fighters showed a lot of respect and didn’t throw much early on. When they did start letting their hands go, Garcia got the better of it but Lipinets also had his moments—and both fighters looked excellent in round one, with lots of great head movement and athleticism from Lipinets and excellent angles, mobility, and precision shown by Garcia.

It seemed in round two that Lipinets was waiting a bit on Garcia, maybe because he was having a hard time timing the California fighter. Garcia was also constantly moving, making himself a tough target. Towards the end of the round, Garcia’s nose began bleeding as a result of Lipinets’ solid jab in a round that saw the champion seeming to start feeling more comfortable.

Lipinets came on in the middle rounds, narrowing the gap and landing some very good shots of his own. Mikey moved beautifully and was precise with his punches, as usual, but Lipinets caused Garcia to think twice. A couple of times during the fight I wondered if Lipinets’ right hand was hurt, as after landing shots he occasionally shook his hand out. But he continued throwing and landing it.

In round seven, I had Lipinets winning the round until Mikey dropped Lipinets with a left hook that the champion didn’t see coming. It was the first time Sergey had been knocked down in his pro career. But it came after both fighters were hurt in the very same round, highlighting some of the close rounds and how difficult Lipinets was making it for Garcia.

Lipinets went to the body a lot, and that really helped cause Garcia to question what to defend against. The champion also consistently feinted, just small movements, but they helped throw Garcia off and keep him guessing. Both fighters utilized excellent skills and made it legitimately difficult for each other in what is without a doubt Lipinets’ toughest fight so far—and what very likely was Garcia’s toughest as well. It was high level boxing at its finest—without a doubt the best match I’ve seen so far this year.

In the tenth round it seemed Garcia was separating himself just a bit more than he’d been able to previously. Lipinets was still doing well and making things tough for Mikey, but Garcia seemed more comfortable, more able to do what he liked. At the end of the round, Mikey was in the middle of throwing a big right hand when the bell rang, and it looked like Garcia pulled the punch in the air as he heard the clang. It made one wonder what kind of reflexes this man has.

Lipinets changed his look in the eleventh round, coming out more like a traditional Eastern European styled fighter, and it was clear Mikey was having to adjust to it. It was an incredibly close round, with the number of clean punches very close and great back and forth by both boxers. The twelfth was a close round with both fighters doing great work.

One judge had it 116-111, while the other two had it 117-110 (which was also my score) for Mikey Garcia. While they were relatively wide scores, they didn’t necessarily accurately reflect what happened in the ring or how well Lipinets did.

“Winning this fourth world title in the fourth division was an honor,” Mikey said following the bout. “I’m very emotional right now. I think people will remember our name, the Garcia family, for ages to come.”

Regarding his future, Garcia said, “I love having all these options. Two or three more fights, you’re gonna see me at welterweight for sure.”

Jim Gray revealed Garcia would be flying to Belize at 4am later the same night to help build houses as part of a church group. It’s fantastic to see fighters like Garcia representing the sport with dignity.

In his post-fight interview, Lipinets attributed his first professional loss to the gap in experience. “It was experience that took over at some point,” he said. “I realize Mikey is a great fighter, and he can crack.” He added that it was a learning experience and that he would be back soon.

Both fighters and their teams should be proud for highlighting the best the sport has to offer tonight.

The co-main event between Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy (26-1, 13 KOs) and Kiryl “Mad Bee” Relikh (22-2, 19 KOs) was a rematch following their close bout last May, this time for the vacant WBA super lightweight world title. Interestingly, while some of the rounds were close, I didn’t think it was a “controversial” decision. It sometimes seems like TV commentators manufacture controversy for whatever reason, and the first Barthelemy-Relikh bout was an example of that. Relikh won his rounds and did well, but scoring in boxing is done on a round-by-round basis—not based on total CompuBox stats as the analysts often imply, particularly since those stats often seem wrong to begin with.

Barthelemy came out very mobile, moving laterally around the ring while throwing the occasional jab. Relikh was stalking but not effective at cutting off the ring, but he was also utilizing the jab as he tried to work his way in. Relikh went to the body more when he was able to catch Barthelemy, and the Cuban wasn’t throwing enough to make it crystal clear early on—even when he was outlanding his opponent. But Barthelemy utilized distance very well and changed the angles well, and he switched to southpaw on occasion which did seem to slow Relikh down just a bit.

As the rounds progressed, Barthelemy stayed in the pocket more and landed more combinations, though Relikh was also landing more of his own shots. But three of the early rounds were incredibly close and tough to score—clean punches landed were similar and neither fighter separated himself enough in those rounds.

In the fifth, referee Luis Pabon gave Relikh a break for what he perceived as a low blow and warned Barthelemy to keep his punches up. It was an odd call considering the punch was a beltline blow and not worthy of a break. It looked likely that someone from Relikh’s camp had complained to Pabon ahead of time and the ref was being unnecessarily diligent about the issue.

Oddly, after six rounds, Showtime’s Steve Farhood stated he had the fight a shutout thus far for Relikh and said he couldn’t “imagine the judges having it any other way.” While I also had Relikh ahead at that point, to have it a shutout was odd considering such close rounds, and it was particularly strange to indicate that no one could have scored some of those tight rounds differently.

In the seventh, Relikh complained of another low blow and Pabon gave him a rest. Upon watching the replay, it was clear that it was, again, a beltline shot—not a low blow. Afterward, we found out Pabon deducted a point from Barthelemy despite these being beltline blows. It seems to be kind of a fad in boxing for the past couple of years for some referees to incorrectly call punches low that land on the belt—particularly if the fighter who got hit complains. In the case of Barthelemy and Relikh, it’s clear their styles clash in such a way that sometimes a borderline shot happens when the Cuban goes downstairs. It’s much like head butts—sometimes they occur due to fighter style match-ups, not as an intentional tactic as TV commentators often suggest.

Regardless, Relikh just outworked Bathelemy as the bout progressed. Despite Barthelemy seeming to have a skill advantage in the ring, he wasn’t active enough and stayed in the pocket getting tagged. Relikh’s combinations and activity level just got better as the rounds went on—he clearly came to outwork the Cuban and it was working. He also utilized his athleticism well, changing range and angles while his confidence clearly increased.

In the tenth, Barthelemy landed what looked like a legal body blow in the moment and hurt Relikh. The referee, Pabon, was on the wrong side and couldn’t see the shot, but upon replay it was clear it was actually a legitimately low blow for the first time—yet wasn’t called.

In the championship rounds, Relikh didn’t slow down—quite the contrary. He continued the barrage of punches, some blocked but some landing cleanly, and Barthelemy continued to not do enough.

In the end, the judges scored it 117-110 and 118-109 twice. Both were fair.

Relikh showed himself to be a more skilled fighter than some may have previously thought tonight. He just shut down a technical boxer in Barthelemy and proved he wanted that world title more.

Barthelemy should be praised, though, for making this rematch to begin with, since he won the first bout and some, like myself, thought there was no “controversy” involved. It’s clear he chose to do the rematch to clear the air and ended up being handed his first loss as a professional. It’s refreshing to see a fighter with that type of mentality—hopefully he works on whatever went wrong tonight and we see him back and better.

Follow Caryn A. Tate on Twitter@carynatate

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  1. Pete The Sneak 08:13am, 03/13/2018

    Good fight, good action, class acts. Lipinets has nothing to hang his head about. He fought his ass off and gave a damn good accounting of himself. Mikey Garcia continues to get better in my eyes and shows he is definitely a force to be reckoned with…Peace.

  2. Koolz 02:38pm, 03/11/2018

    Lipinets wife was pretty nervous during the fight but damn it was good action.

    all the fights are here but there are ads.  just warning you.

    I am behind on fights.

  3. ceylon mooney 01:55pm, 03/11/2018

    barthelemy won the first two rounds, but thats about it. except for a handful of times, he spent the fight standing in front of relikh with his guard up. my girfriend and i were watching this she kept sayin what the hell is wrong with that guy? yeah. what the hell was up with him?

    garcias timing was great, his 1-2 was solid, and he was damn economical with his activity.

  4. Balaamaass 10:31am, 03/11/2018

    “Barthelemy should be praised”.....for what….his hair?! The scorecards were the real story here…they were a Goddamned disgrace and so is your Fake News report on the fight. Rances did not win a single minute of any round! All the low blows were intentional and are a part of his go to game plan…. even when he tackled Relikh down that is a part of his shitty repertoire! The low blow in the last round was a straight in shot delivered as he dipped down….he was at eye level with Relikh’s cup and knew exactly where the punch would land. Kinda’ reminds when your boyfriend SOG headbutted Kovalev below the belt!

  5. Stephen Rosenberg 07:34am, 03/11/2018

    Curious that Caryn Tate scored the fight 117-110 for Garcia, yet doesn’t mention Mikey’s constant use of his left jab-right cross combination. Perhaps
    a closer look at the left side of Lipenets’ post fight face makes the point.

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