Exclusive interview by Ian Aldous – Class and dignity were all that I sensed from Custio Clayton; no anger or disappointment. This, despite being on the wrong end of what many viewed should have been a points win for the Canadian, against former IBF 140lbs world champion, Sergey Lipinets two weeks ago, on Showtime. Scores of 115-113 to Clayton and 114-114 twice resulted in a majority draw with the IBF interim welterweight world title remaining vacant.
“I think this was the fight that proved I can box very well,” the 2012 Olympian said. “I can fight if I need to, but that wasn’t our gameplan. I didn’t need to change nothing because he didn’t make me have to change.”
The thirty-three year-old was a late replacement for Kudratillo Abdukakhorov who was forced to withdraw due to visa issues. His short preparation wasn’t ideal, but would not get in the way of his chance to main-event on Showtime.
“I was training for a fight prior to that, so I was still training but at the same time, I knew there was a possibility that I could be a replacement about four weeks (before fight night),” Clayton revealed. “When it got confirmed, it was two weeks before the fight.”
With a worldwide pandemic still causing widespread issues with the boxing schedule across the globe, a fight with Lipinets, even at short-notice, was too good to turn down.
“I was taking it for sure, but at the same time, it was starting to get closer and closer. He was supposed to fight on October 10th,” he said in reference to the date of when Lipinets was originally scheduled to fight Abdukakhorov. “It was getting closer and I still didn’t know nothing then. It was looking like the fight was not going to happen. But after the 10th is when we actually got the call. We knew for two weeks that it was him for sure.”
Over their short time to prepare, Clayton and Eric Belanger formulated a plan of utilising his high-level boxing skill set to nullify Lipinets’ come-forward style in a backfoot boxer vs. aggressive fighter contest. Other than for two judges’ scorecards – it worked.
“I’m someone that loves to box and people don’t see that side of me. Our gameplan was to go out there and box, use my jab, use my boxing ring IQ and I think I actually did that pretty well,” the undefeated 18-0-1 pugilist explained.
“He’s an aggressive fighter and ex-world champion. He likes to fight and every fight I’d seen him in – he likes to come forward. What I knew people didn’t know about me was how I can box.”
It was a chess-match at times and feasible for judges to find it a little tricky to score. But Clayton believes that’s their job and they should have recognised what was happening inside the ring.
“They’re supposed to be seasoned and world-class judges. This shouldn’t be the first time where they had these type of fights,” he said. “I do understand that I was supposed to be the underdog regardless. He was the guy that most people thought was supposed to win. As to the judges, sometimes you don’t want to look at it, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the guy that they’re more focused on.”
“He was pressing us in the early rounds, but wasn’t really landing. So, I mean, they were the closer rounds. Coming onto the other half of the fight, I think that’s when I started putting everything together, really getting into the groove. Making sure I box and move. As to the later (rounds), from there you can start to see, he was coming, but I was in control of the fight by then.”
Talk inevitably turned to the likelihood of a rematch; logical considering the competitiveness and perceived poor scoring. Unfortunately, Clayton doesn’t believe Lipinets or his team will be interested in battling again, especially with a full eight-week camp under his belt this time.
“I don’t think they’re really focused on a rematch. I don’t think they are. I heard his manager say stuff that he’s not really in for a rematch with Clayton. With more time and proper training – I think it’d be a different fight.”
Nevertheless, Clayton’s stock rose considerably after giving the former world champion a difficult night and proved he belongs on the world stage. He’s waited patiently for a big opportunity, having turned pro in 2014, and believes he’s in a very strong position.
“I proved with my style of fighting, I can give people problems. They always knew I could fight, but now they know I can box very well. I can switch it up and change no matter what opponent. My style could give anyone problems.”
“I guess anyone would say they’d love to fight Spence or Crawford. Everyone would say that. If that was to happen, I’d be prepared for it. You’ve got Shawn Porter out there, (Yordenis) Ugas and even Sergey again. No matter what comes, I’ll be prepared for either one.”