Sergey Lipinets now gets his kicks from boxing
The list of kickboxers or mixed-martial arts fighters who have excelled in boxing is neither long nor accomplished, with Vitali Klitschko, Nigel Benn and Marco Huck serving as notable exceptions to the rule. A new candidate bidding to reverse that trend of mediocrity is Kazakhstan-born junior welterweight prospect Sergey Lipinets, 7-0 (6), a world champion kickboxer setting his sights firmly on the pro boxing ranks. Lipinets is not jumping into pro boxing directly from the kickboxing scene haven, taken the time to ground himself in the basics, competing in a talent-rich Kazakhstan amateur boxing system. If successful, Lipinets will add his name to those of Gennady Golovkin, Vassiliy Jirov and Beibut Shumenov as champions from that proud country. To do that, and hopefully continue his knockout streak of six straight stoppages, Lipinets is challenging fellow unbeaten prospect Haskell Lydell Rhodes at the University of Central Florida Venue in Orlando, Fla. (Bounce TV, 9 p.m ET/6 p.m. PT) tonight.
It seems like more and more boxing prospects from Eastern Europe and Asia are navigating into deep boxing waters at an accelerated pace, no longer content racking up 20 or 30 wins before challenging for a world title. Sergey Lipinets is of that audacious breed, turning pro against 35-fight veteran Franklin Varela and scheduled for a ten-rounder in only five bouts. Lipinets’ punching power seems legitimate at any level, especially to the body, which many young boxers disregard, and, given a relative lack of experience, his punches appear as strategic as intuitive. This is the reason manager Alex Vaysfeld refuses to put constraints on his fighter’s level of opposition, “I totally believe, if given the opportunity, he will be a world champion by the end of 2015. Yes, he is that good.”
Vaysfeld, head of Union Boxing Management, came across Lipinets while the latter was still contemplating a conversion to boxing. In an interview with Alexey Sukachev of BoxingScene.com, Vaysfeld says some things come naturally for Lipinets but a willingness to listen and adaptability is what sets him apart. “Sergey is one of the best prospects to enter boxing over the last several years. He is nearing on to be a complete package, even though he has started his career being quite a raw product. Sergey is a natural gem. It’s not that shocking, given the fact that Sergey wasn’t a boxer at all – he is a world-class kickboxer with some belts and titles on his resume. He has been forced to re-invent his approach to a different sport, to be re-configured for a new job and, thank God, he is very teachable, very smart while learning something new.” Some of the new, boxing technique, mostly, is being instilled by trainer Rodrigo Mosquera, who has received recent acclaim for his work in the camps of Gary Russell Jr. and Francisco Vargas.
At 26, Lipinets is not at a perfect age to learn a new combat art but is in his athletic prime. He sports a lithe 5-foot-7 frame with well-proportioned musculature, perfect for a come-forward pressure fighter, who values thudding hooks over opportune jabs. Not that Lipinets lacks the aptitude to deliver a well-timed jab but Lipinets is smart enough to employ his best assets as his boxing technique continues to improve. To gain experience and boxing muscle memory, Lipinets stays active. Tonight’s bout will be his third fight of 2015. His seven outings are spread evenly between USA and Russia, slowly building a fan base on two continents. Only one opponent had a losing record and, more impressively, Lipinets has stopped three opponents in the seventh round or later. Displaying that kind of patience, breaking opponents down when an early kayo was not in the cards, is a rare attribute in young prospects.
Praise for Lipinets has not been limited to his paid ring outings, receiving a lot of attention as he makes the rounds on the Southern California gym circuit. Lipinets is eager to step in the ring at Freddie Roach’s famed Wild Card Boxing Club to trade punches with anyone from top-notch amateurs to established world champions. When asked why he sparred so much, Lipinets said he is there to build stamina, mostly, explaining his main challenge converting from kickboxing to boxing, “Kickboxing originated from the merger of boxing and karate. The essential difference is that boxing focuses more on endurance, since fighting lasts for 12 rounds. So I still have to train the legs just as much but in a different way.”
In a Men’s Health Russia article, Lipinets expanded on his training regimen, “In a typical training week, I use intervals. On Monday, sparring from four to 10 rounds. Then heavy bag for two rounds, double-end bag 10 minutes at intervals, rope jumping 10 minutes at intervals. In the evening, running with acceleration spurts up to five miles. The next day, at 5 a.m., running up hills. The starting point is at around 1,500 meters above sea level, the distance five miles again. In the evening, a jump rope for 20 minutes. Shadow-boxing eight rounds, 10 rounds of bag work on the balls of feet.” Lipinets alternates these training regimens throughout the week and rests on Sunday.
When asked the obvious question as to why he gave up a successful kickboxing career, Lipinets answer was as short and succinct as one of his hooks. “In kickboxing, I have achieved everything but boxing is close to me in spirit. I’ve always wanted to train overseas, in the United States, a Mecca of boxing. Now my dream has come true and, for that, I want to say a big thank you to coach Sergei Konikovu, who helped me go from kickboxing into professional boxing.” A transfiguration that has been very successful and not gone unnoticed by American interests, social media showed Lipinets taking pictures with Top Rank Promotions chief Bob Arum, who is said to be interested in his services, though Lipinets will almost surely continue to be advised by Union Boxing Management.
Perhaps, Lipinets’ most impressive win to date, in his sixth pro bout, was a torturous stoppage of Cosme Rivera in the ninth round of a scheduled 10-rounder. Rivera, though past his prime, is a respectable foe near the end of a 22-year career (37-19-3, 25 KOs, when he met Lipinets) but had been active and was still a useful gatekeeper. Rivera’s experience helped him avoid early damage but his legs where too heavy to escape Lipinets’ power over the long haul. He continually forced Rivera to backpedal in search of escape routes. Lipinets dropped a round, maybe two at most, before dropping Rivera with a shudder-inducing overhand right in the penultimate second of the ninth round. Rivera was stretched out flat on his back by the punch and mercifully prevented from continuing by referee Telis Assimenios.
Tonight’s opponent is certainly Lipinets toughest; 28-year-old Haskell Lydell Rhodes, 23-0-1 (11), who can be found going through his paces in the Mayweather Gym most days. Rhodes is a prospect in his own right, not lacking for confidence and wanting to represent his gym in the best light, “I’m going to put on a show for him and all the other legends of boxing to show them that the sport is in good hands with Lydell ‘Hackman’ Rhodes.” He went on to state – and make no attempt to hide his best pugilistic asset, “You will see speed, speed and some more speed. But with lightning, there also comes thunder, so you will see my explosive power mixed in with movement. I feel like, after this, if I show my skills, I’ll be a main attraction.”
A spectacular win for Lipinets is far from assured and it is probably in the best interest of Lipinets, and maybe fans, if the fight goes into the final round before scoring a stoppage. Lipinets and his team are looking for the short road to a title fight but recognize putting in the most possible rounds en route benefits Lipinets most. It is a team effort as well as unifying goal, says manager Vaysfeld, “He will continue to move on quickly. We are doing everything as we are supposed to do as a manager and much more. He is doing all you can ask of a fighter and much more. He’s truly a fully dedicated full-time fighter. We couldn’t ask for anything more from him.”