Mikey Garcia: ‘A victory over me launches Sergey Lipinets’ career to the top’

WBC lightweight titleholder Mikey Garcia. Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime


“A world champion like Sergey Lipinets is more exciting an opponent for me than an easy title defense. I wanted a challenge and this man presents that. He’s a bigger man naturally. He’s going to be very hungry and motivated. He knows a victory over me launches his career to the top. That’s going to make this an interesting fight.”


At press conference in Los Angeles, on Monday, Mikey Garcia casually sat at the dais answering questions from a moderator about his February 10 date with IBF junior welterweight titleholder Sergey Lipinets. With his name first on the banner behind him, though he’s actually the challenger, he riddled some responses with snipes aimed at bigger fights down the line.


That opening quote from Garcia was more of a save than anything. Its first half didn’t make the Showtime press release and, in order to keep it in context, he was asked a question by Showtime’s Jim Gray, one many asked of Garcia, once this fight was announced.


“A lot of names have been thrown out,” said Gray. “A lot of people want to fight you and we’ve seen, in the past several months, all of them throw their hat in the ring to want the opportunity. What made you decide fighting Sergey – an undefeated fighter, a fighter who is 13 and 0, 10 knockouts and a tough guy – how did you pick him of all of these other guys that would like a shot at you?”


To this, Garcia started his response with, “We were looking at other names as well and we’re not able to secure somebody else for various reasons. Sometimes it’s the marketability or what they bring to the table is not exciting enough for me.”


Really the only marketability Lipinets has is the IBF junior welterweight title that sits over his shoulder. In wake of the undisputed champion at 140 pounds Terence Crawford moving up in weight, the Kazakh-born Russian earned the vacant title with a hard-fought unanimous decision win over Akihiro Kondo in November.


IBF junior welterweight titlist Sergey Lipinets (left) and WBC lightweight beltholder Mikey Garcia. Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime


“(Lipinets) went to high school and college in the same night,” Lipinets’ trainer Buddy McGirt told UCNLive.com after the presser, about the win over Kondo. “It was a great experience for him. It made him understand that you’re not gonna knock everybody out and sometimes just keeping it basic will win the fight. And that’s what he did. He got a bad cut, so I said the key now is to just keep it basic. I didn’t want him to panic. I knew we had the guy under control. I knew his jab was containing the guy, so, if the jab and right hand is working, keep going with it.”


Lipinets, 13-0 (10), expressed an eagerness for a challenge, in his time to answer questions during the formal announcement, and, as McGirt explained, a win over Garcia would attract bigger fights down the road as Lipinets hopes to become undisputed like his predecessor.


“If I could answer that, I’d pick the six numbers for the Lotto right now,” McGirt responded when asked why he thought Garcia took the fight, adding, “Without a doubt,” on if he thought it was a mistake on his part. With Garcia having the convenience to seemingly pick and choose the fights, these days, McGirt said, “I think he’s earned the right. He’s fought everybody, when he was a champion. He’s done everything asked of him. You can’t say that he came through and nitpicked his opponents – he fought whoever they put in front of him. So you gotta respect the man for that. He could’ve fought anybody but he chose Sergey, which is good for us.”


Garcia, who infamously challenged Top Rank in a promotional contract dispute and won, successfully came back in 2017, after his career was stalled in court for two-and-a- half-years prior. Last January, he delivered a bona fide candidate for “Knockout of the Year” in his icing of Dejan Zlaticanin to win the WBC lightweight title. Then in June, he made it look easy against the high-profile name of Adrien Broner, five pounds north of lightweight. Some are considering Garcia the “Fighter of the Year” in 2017 and, whether you agree or not, he certainly has all the options that would stem from such a distinction. All this, as a promotional free agent.


Richard Schaefer, who is promoting the event, set to take place at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, was proud to introduce Garcia on one of his cards again. Schaefer helped promote Garcia’s first fight of 2017 in Brooklyn, New York, and, as he told UCNLive.com, a year ago, it’s no secret there is interest in signing Garcia to his company Ringstar Sports.


“Well, you know, Mikey feels comfortable – just like Floyd did, when I worked with Floyd Mayweather (Jr.) – we never really had a signed contract but we worked together and everybody knew that,” Schaefer followed-up on his working relationship with Garcia. “In a similar situation with Mikey – we like each other. We work well together. We respect each other – and sometimes those arrangements are better than any contract in writing.”


(From left to right) Lipinets trainer Buddy McGirt, Lipinets, promoter Richard Schaefer, Garcia and Garcia trainer Robert Garcia. Photo credit: Esther Lin/Showtime


On what he thought the benefits were for Garcia having these one-offs with promoters, with no binding long-term deals, Schaefer said:


“Well, it’s not really a matter of benefits. I think there is no right or wrong. I can certainly understand why promoters would like to sign fighters to long-term promotional agreements because the fact is – particular with younger fighters – a promoter makes a significant investment in a career and you sort of want to be protected when the fighter eventually gets bigger and well-known. But if you look at the career of a superstar like Mikey Garcia or, back then, a Floyd Mayweather, I can understand that the fighter wants to keep his flexiibilty or his options open and, I believe, as long as a promoter does a great job and delivers for the fighter, empowers the fighter and generates exposure and revenues, there really is no reason for a fighter to go with somebody else. If that is not the case, then a superstar like Mikey or, back in the day, like Floyd, should have the option to go somewhere else. I mean, that’s only right.”


Three days after his 30th birthday, and in the thick of his prime, Garcia, 37-0 (33), eyes big plans for 2018 but it’s only getting started with Lipinets, which would secure a fourth world title in as many divisions for the Moreno Valley, California, native. To no one’s surprise, Garcia attracted all the attention, during Monday’s event, as he was bombarded with questions about his bright future. In the only question squeezed in by UCNLive.com during the scrum, Garcia was asked about his WBC lightweight title and if there is a deal with the sanctioning body, considering it will have gone undefended a year since he won it.


“They presented a letter,” Garcia explained. “The letter said we have been allowed to take on these other fights – the Broner fight and this one – and they’re demanding that we face (WBA champion Jorge) Linares next immediately. Same thing with Linares, (the WBA is) forcing him to face me next. I’m up for that. That’s what we want, so that’s why we think that fight will happen for sure in the 2018 year. Maybe in the summer, at 135.”


Linares, who is set to defend his title against fringe contender Mercito Gesta on HBO, January 27, was, of course, to whom Garcia would be referring in the opening quote of this article. Garcia was offered the Linares a fight on more than one occasion but ultimately a deal wasn’t agreed upon. Regardless of what happened behind the closed doors of negotiation and who’s to blame for it not happening now, Garcia certainly one-upped Linares, in terms of generating a more interesting fight before the inevitable unification. Adding another distinction to his credits will also help, once negotiations start again but, in the same move for Garcia, it also creates even more options for this unique fighter steering the ship of his own career.




You can reach Michael Baca II at mikebaca2@gmail.com and follow him at twitter.com/mikebaca2




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