By Dan Ambrose: Mikey Garcia (38-0, 30 KOs) won his fourth division world title last Saturday night in beating IBF light welterweight champion Sergey Lipinets (13-1, 10 KOs) on Showtime in a fight that could have easily gone the other way at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. Mikey won by the scores 116-111, 117-110 and 117-110. Unfortunately, Mikey took a real battering at the hands of the hard-hitting 28-year-old Belarusian Lipinets. The decision should have gone to Lipinets. He was the better fighter last night. Mikey looked like a guy that had lost a step and was fighting outside of his normal weight class.
Lipinets took advantage of Mikey’s habit of throwing few punches, and he was able to outwork him and land far more shots in the fight. The crowd was on Mikey’s side though, and that might explain the wide scores in his favor. Lipinets did enough to win, but he had the deck stacked against him fighting a popular fighter in Garcia in a venue that greatly favored him in San Antonio.
Mikey couldn’t land his right hand at all last night. When he would throw it, he would miss, and get countered by Lipinets with left hooks to the head right hands to the body. The only punch Mikey could land with any regularity was his left hook, and even with that punch, he was hitting air most of the time. Mikey looked very rusty against Lipinets, and he also looked old and not the guy that he’d been years ago before he stopped fighting for 2 ½ years from 2014 to 2016. We didn’t see the rust in Mikey’s first three fights of his comeback against Elio Rojas, Dejan Zlaticanin and Adrien Broner, because those fighters weren’t good enough to expose it. Lipinets was more than good enough to show bad much Mikey has lost from his game from the prime of his career in 2013. Mikey has lost a lot from inactivity and age, and we saw that last night. At this point, he would be crazy to get inside the ring with one of the top welterweights like Errol Spence Jr. or Keith Thurman. Those guys would destroy him.
After the fight, Garcia said he’s moving back down to lightweight and 135 to defend his WBC title. However, Mikey said he already tried fighting Vasyl Lomachenko in the past, and he says his promoters have their own agenda. But in light of how beatable Mikey looked against Lipinets, it’s hard not to see his explanation for not pursuing a fight against Lomachenko as a signal that he’s afraid of the 2-time Olympic gold medalist. Lomachenko would be too skilled for Mikey at lightweight.
“If he wants to come up, I’ve been calling him out for a year and he still hasn’t moved up,” Garcia said about Lomachenko at the post-fight press conference last Saturday. “He’s the one fighting Beltran. They got their own agenda. I’m already at 140, possibly 147. He’s doing what I did 3 to 4 years ago,” Garcia said.
Whether Top Rank is avoiding making the fight between Lomachenko and Mikey is unknown. But after the way Mikey fought last Saturday night against Lipinets, it would be crazy for Top Rank not to want to match Lomacenko against him. It’s a very winnable fight for Lomachenko against Mikey.
Mikey said that he’ll take one fight at 135, and then move up to either 140 or 147 to go after bigger challenges in those weight classes. Mikey was very lucky to have beaten Lipinets, because it was a fight that could have gone to him. Garcia was given a 12 round unanimous decision victory over Lipinets. but there were really only 2 rounds in the fight that you could say within a shadow of a doubt that Mikey deserved them. Those were rounds 1 and 7. The remainder of the rounds was ones that saw Lipinets, 28, pushing the action, landing the harder shots and taking advantage of Mikey’s low punch output. Mikey made a mistake of fighting like he used to in looking to hurt Lipinets with single shots rather than going after him with sustained combinations. Mikey needs to adapt and fight more like Oscar Valdez by throwing tons of punches if he wants to be successful at 140 in the future.
Mikey knocked Lipinets down with a left hook to the head in the 7th. Mikey caught Lipinets with a left hand just as he was throwing one of his own shots. The punch put Lipinets down on his backside. Lipinets immediately got back to his feet and finished the round in fine form by continuing to take the fight to Mikey.
“I did feel the punches he landed to the head. You can feel the difference,” Garcia said about Lipinets. “The game plan was to fight smart, because he’s a strong, dangerous fighter, so I was looking to make the fight as easy as possible for me. There were moments when I was against the ropes allowing him to come and exchange punches, but I was trying to wait for a counter,” Mikey said.
The fight was far from easy. Mikey had the wrong style to beat the bigger, stronger, younger and harder hitting Lipinets. Since Mikey turned pro 12 years ago in 2006, Mikey has always been extremely powerful for the weight classes he’s fought in. Mikey’s power was so good at 126, 130 and 135 that he could be frugal with his shots and throw very few and still get the job done. With Mikey’s power, he didn’t need to throw a lot of shots to beat guys at featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight. But last night against Lipinets at 140, Mikey needed to let his hands go, because his punching power has not carried up with him to this weight class. In Mikey’s first fight at 140 last July against Adrien Broner, his problems with his low work rate and lack of power was disguised due to his opponent showing a timid nature. Broner was showing too much respect for Mikey’s power, and he failed to go after him the way he needed to in order to test him. When Broner did let his hands go, he didn’t have the power that we saw in Lipinets last night, because he’s not a natural light welterweight. Moreover, Broner looked like he was completely weight drained from having started training camp out of shape and carrying around a lot of weight. It was an ordeal for Broner to drop the weight to get down to the 140 lb. weight limit for the fight, and we saw the after effects of the strain to take the weight off by his lack of power in the fight.
Before last night’s fight, Mikey hadn’t had a competitive match-up against a guy that was able to take his power and land shots in return since his match with Orlando Salido in January 2013. That was 5 years ago, and that fight was cut short after Mikey nailed following the 8th round after suffering a broken nose from a clash of heads. Fighters usually fight with a broken nose, but Mikey was pulled out of the fight by his trainer after the 8th. Salido had taken Mikey’s best shots in the earlier rounds and survived. Salido was taking over the fight by the 7th round, and Mikey looked worried. Last night, we saw the same thing, but it was Lipinets taking the fight to Mikey from the get go. Mikey had two rounds where he looked like he fought well enough to win them, and that was the 1st and 7th. Other than those two rounds, the other 10 rounds were controlled by Lipinets with him outworking Mikey and getting the better of him with big shots.
”He wasn’t really troubling me,” Mikey said of Lipinets. ”I even felt like I could stand inside and put some pressure on and exchange some punches, but at the same time if I do that I risk getting hit. I didn’t need to risk. If we’re winning comfortably on the outside, then keep doing that. I was landing some great shots on the outside. Some shots hurt him. One even dropped him, so there wasn’t any need for me to get on the inside and exchange and risk. We wanted to make sure we won the rounds clearly and people knew I was winning and in control. I didn’t want to give him any thoughts of coming strong and thinking he’s got me. I didn’t want his confidence to grow. So I wanted to put the pressure a little bit and to show him I’m in control. I think for the immediate future, I want to come down to 135 and defend my title one last time. After that, I will look at our possible options. I have options at 140 and 147. I want to take big challenges. That’s the only way I’ll be remembered. If you want to take the biggest challenges available. People will always love you for that. The fight that interests me right now at lightweight is Linares. He showed interest in me in recent times. So maybe we can get that fight,” Mikey said.
It’s not likely that Mikey will get the fight with Linares that he wants, because it looks like he’s going to fight Lomachenko next on May 12. If Mikey does fight Linares, it’ll probably be with him coming off of a loss to Lomachenko. That won’t be a fight that will interest the boxing public. The fight that Mikey can make is against International Boxing Federation lightweight champion Robert Easter Jr. He was in the audience last Saturday night, and he obviously came there because he’s hoping to fight Mikey. The Showtime network made sure they put the camera on Easter Jr., and that suggests that they’re hoping Mikey will fight him in a unification contest. They must know that Linares will be fighting Lomachenko next, and that will take him out of play for a fight against Mikey. When Mikey does move back up to 140, my guess is he’ll target the winner of the Terry Flanagan vs. Maurice Hooker fight for the WBO light 140 lb. title. It’ll be either one of those two guys or WBA light welterweight champion Kiryl Relikh. I don’t see Mikey going after the winner of the Amir Imam vs. Jose Carlos Ramirez fight, because those are tough fighters and he could lose. Ramirez is with Top Rank, so that’s another reason why we probably won’t see Mikey fighting him. Mikey might lose to Relikh, because he’s got a high work rate and he can punch hard. He’s a busier fighter than Lipinets, and might have a little more power. If Mikey can’t increase his punch output, he’ll lose to Lipinets unless he gets the kind of scoring that we saw last Saturday night against Lipinets. With that kind of scoring, Mikey can beat anyone, and I mean anyone.
If Mikey is smart, he’ll give up on his dreams of fighting at 140 and 147, and go back down to lightweight and make the best of things. Mikey is a better fighter at 135 and 130 than he is at 140. If Mikey goes up to 147, he’ll get knocked out for sure if he faces Spence, Shawn Porter or Keith Thurman.