Another fight, another belt.
Winning championship fights has become clockwork for Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs), who now has world titles in four weight class — the third fighter besides Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao to do so. The biggest fight in San Antonio since Canelo Alvarez defeated Austin Trout in 2013, 7,800 fans cheered on the Riverside native at the Freeman Coliseum, where Garcia outpointed opponent Sergey Lipinets (13-1, 10 KOs) to earn the IBF Junior Welterweight title. Judges scored the bout 116-111, 117-110, and 117-110. La Prensa scorecard was 115-112 in favor of Garcia.
The crowd constantly chanted “Let’s Go Mikey”; Garcia trains out of brother Robert Garcia’s gym in San Antonio and is a hometown fighter of sorts.
“Getting this fourth title is an honor that gets me mentioned with Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. I’m very grateful for everything that’s happening to me right now,” Garcia said, who now has belts in featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight.
The Riverside native passed on numerous big name fights in pursuit of his fourth belt against the relatively unknown Lipinets. Most pundits had Garcia as the favorite by a wide margin, but the Kazakhstan native was better than expected; his unorthodox movements were off-putting, and he was able to absorb the punishment Garcia exacted in order to close the distance.
For the duration of the bout, Garcia reddened Lipinets face with stiff jabs, constantly unloading one-two combinations and finding success with the overhand right. Garcia’s nose was bloodied in the second round and was irritated by Lipinets constant barrage to the body.
Garcia got some extra cushioning on the scorecard with a damaging left hook in the seventh round, that sent Lipinets to the canvas for the first time in his career. Lipinets also hurled a left, but Garcia walked through it to deliver the damaging punch. Immediately, Lipinets girlfriend rushed the ring, where she was hoisted away by security back to her seat, screaming at everyone to “shut up”.
“We both landed left hooks, but mine landed right on the chin and that’s what brought him down,” Garcia said. “But we both were exchanging at the same time.”
To Lipinets credit, he hung in there until the final bell, unloading combinations to Garcia’s body on the ropes. Garcia finished the duration of the fight connecting with the cleaner shots, landing 169 of 679 total punches, in comparison to 144 of 509 for Lipinets.
With blood in the water (and on the canvas), the Freeman Coliseum saw numerous fighters walking around in the crowd, clusters of fans surrounding the boxers with their cell phones raised for pictures; others passed gloves around for signatures. All likely want a piece of Garcia, who is now entertaining offers for marquee name opponents. Abner Mares, Omar Figueroa, and Regis Prograis were all spotted socializing with the audience and media. The latter has a good chance of facing Garcia at a future date, and was seen roaming around the stadium with his WBC belt slung over his shoulder.
The criticism for Garcia is he still hasn’t faced quality opponents. According to BoxRec.com, he has only faced three five-star opponents, two of which have been demoted to three- or four-star prospects respectively.
Garcia addressed the potential opponents watching.
“I have a lot of options. I could come back down to 135 and unify the titles, which is what I would really, really love to do. Then, I would move up to 140 and unify those titles,” he said. “Then possibly go up to 147, so two or three more fights you’re going to see me at welterweight for sure.”
In the televised prelim, Kiryl Relikh (22-2, 19 KOs) bested Rances Barthelemy (26-1, 13 KOs) in a unanimous decision (117-110, 118-109, 118-109). LP scored the bout a complete shutout (120-107) for Relikh, including a point deduction for a low blow. Barthelemy previously claimed the first meeting on a controversial decision, but was outclassed by a high volume of punches throughout the fight. Additionally, he struck Relikh numerous times below the belt — only one of the illegal hits was flagged as a point deduction.