The scorecards might have suggested otherwise, but Mikey Garcia certainly had to earn his way into the boxing history books Saturday night as previously unbeaten Sergey Lipinets proved to a formidable champion of his own.
SAN ANTONIO — Before the fight, trainer Robert Garcia predicted that his younger brother Mikey Garcia would be facing the absolute best his opponent Sergey Lipinets has ever been. With a bloody nose just a handful of rounds into the contest, Garcia quickly learned that firsthand Saturday night inside Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.
Ultimately, Garcia (38-0, 30 knockouts) continued to make his case as being one of boxing's pound-for-pound best in the world. Garcia faced adversity in an opponent who was bigger and stronger, and maybe just as hungry as himself. The 30-year-old Garcia overcame those obstacles en route to a 12-round unanimous decision—earning a fourth world title in as many weight classes in the process.
Garcia is one of the best tacticians the sport has seen in years, but found himself on the receiving end of a number of heavy shots from the much bigger Lipinets. Garcia used his superior boxing IQ to position Lipinets (13-1, 10 KOs) for his counters, particularly his counter left hook.
It was that punch that changed the fight just as it seemed to be heading in Lipinets' favor. After mounting a good offense in the fifth and sixth rounds, Lipinets was having even more success with his power shots in the seventh. A big right hand seemed to affect Garcia, but Lipinets got a little careless and was caught by a perfect counter left hook that put the Kazakhstan-born fighter on the canvas for the first time in his career.
"[Lipinets] came as expected. He is a very tough, determined, hungry, strong fighter," said Garcia, who joined Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as the only fighters in history to win titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140 pounds.
"We worked with angles, footwork and worked on the jab. He's very dangerous with that overhand right and those left hooks but we were able to prevail."
“ I can go down to 135 and unify, which is what I really want to do, and then move back up to 140 and unify and then eventually go up to welterweight at 147. ” Four-time World Champion Mikey Garcia
It was at that point that Garcia was able to seize control of the fight, though he was never cruising towards victory. Lipinets' activity level slowed and Garcia's windows to land explosive counters become much bigger. In the championship rounds, Garcia was able to fully display his advantage in skill and experience, though the new champion didn't see the right opportunity to go for the finish.
"I landed mine right on the chin but we were exchanging at the same time," Garcia said. "A few moments I thought I stunned him but I had to be patient."
Garcia prevailed by scores of 116-111, 117-110 twice in his favor, though the scores don't reflect the competitiveness of the bout. Lipinets is in good shape to land a meaningful fight after acquitting himself well against one of the best fighters in the world.
"I want to get back in the gym and start working on problems I had tonight," Lipinets said after the fight. "There are a few holes I need to close. I will be back; tonight was a learning experience."
There should be opportunities aplenty for Garcia, and he seems open to all possibilities. However, he landed shots against Lipinets that would have put guys down at 135 and below
“This is what I love the most, that I have all of these options,” Garcia said when asked what's next. "I can go down to 135 and unify, which is what I really want to do, and then move back up to 140 and unify and then eventually go up to welterweight at 147.”
Garcia will certainly spend some time thinking about the next move, but whatever it is should set him up as a potential Fighter of the Year candidate.
Kiryl Relikh dominates Rances Barthelemy to capture WBA 140-pound world title.
The long wait for Kiryl Relikh, was finally worth it Saturday night in San Antonio.
After being on the bad end of a controversial decision last May, Relikh (22-2, 19 knockouts) was granted a rematch with unbeaten Rances Barthelemy—and even better, this time it was for a vacant title. This time, he left no doubt en route to a 12-round decision by 118-109 twice and 117-110 scores.
Relikh can now call himself a champion after dominating Barthelemy (26-1, 13 KOs) from bell to bell as he fought the most complete fight of his career. The win also halted Barthelemy's effort to become the first Cuban to win titles in three divisions. Relikh left no doubt as he managed to outjab Barthelemy, who was unanimously considered the best boxer.
“Last time I was not ready,” Relikh said. “I didn't have proper preparation in the first fight but this time, with my new trainers, I was ready. I'm very happy. I've waited for this dream for 20 years. I've worked hard for this dream and now it's mine.”
Barthelemy took several hard shots early in the contest, which helped reduce his punch output dramatically. Relikh threw more than 1,200 punches in the fight and forced Barthelemy to keep his guard up for nearly the duration of the bout. Relikh also showed some new wrinkles in his game, boxing well from the outside and catching Barthelemy with sharp power shots.
Barthelemy's most damaging blows were illegal ones, as he was deducted a point for throwing south of the border in the seventh round—and he should've lost another point with seconds left in the twelfth.
“My heart is broken because I came in to this fight trying to get that third world title,” Barthelemy said. “I have to admit defeat and say that Relikh deserved to win that fight, but I will be back.”
Barthelemy is perhaps best suited at 135 pounds, whereas Relikh now becomes an interesting name for anyone in the top 10 at 140 pounds.
Barrios, Figueroa stay unbeaten, while Luna falls for the first time
The featured attraction of the SHOWTIME BOXING on SHO EXTREME telecast saw San Antonio's-own Mario Barrios (21-0, 13 KOs) deliver a sensational second-round knockout of Eudy Bernardo (23-3, 17 KOs) in front of his hometown fans.
"I definitely made a statement tonight," Barrios said. "I showed the 140-pound division that I'm here and ready for any of them."
Barrios was dominant from the start and struck early in the second with a vicious straight right that put Bernardo down. Although Bernardo got to his feet and beat the count, referee Jon Schorle had seen enough and waved off the bout 45 seconds into the second round.
In the opening bout, Richard Commey (26-2, 23 KOs) scored a sixth-round TKO of previously unbeaten Alejandro Luna (22-1, 15 KOs) in their IBF lightweight world title eliminator.
The fight was defined by exciting exchanges throughout, with Commey, fighting on his 31s tbirthday, getting the better early and connecting with power punches that caused Luna's jaw to swell. Commey's power broke through in round six when a powerful combination punctuated by a left uppercut sent Luna to the canvas for the first time in his career.
"I'm very disappointed," said Luna. "All the credit to Commey, but I expect more of myself and I'm going to get back in the gym and come back much stronger and better."
Luna rose to his feet but was quickly pounced on by Commey, who landed 62 percent of his power punches in the round, and was sent to the mat again. This forced referee David Fields to call a halt to the bout at 1:54 of round six. Commey now becomes the mandatory challenger for IBF lightweight world champion Robert Easter, who Commey lost a split decision to in September 2016.
The SHO EXTREME swing bout featured unbeaten prospect Brandon Figueroa (15-0, 10 KOs) scoring a seventh round knockout of Mexico's Giovanni Delgado (16-6, 9 KOs) in their super bantamweight clash.
Figueroa, the brother of former champion Omar, continued to show the aggressive style that has defined his early career as he threw an astonishing 178 punches in the third round. That number was good for the second most ever thrown in a single round by a fighter in a super bantamweight bout, according to CompuBox.
The 21-year-old Figueroa continued to put the pressure on, battering Delgado until referee Gregorio Alvarez halted the fight at 1:55 of the seventh round.
For a closer look at Garcia vs Lipinets, visit our fight page.