A change of opponents and a postponed fighting date haven't slowed down former 140-pound champion Sergey Lipinets' hopes of winning a world title in a second weight class.
After constant visa issues forced unbeaten Kudratillo Abdukakhorov to postpone and eventually pull out of his original date against Lipinets (16-1, 12 KOs), the all-action native of Kazakhstan will now face Canada's Custio Clayton (18-0, 12 KOs) on Saturday in the main event of a Showtime Boxing: Special Edition card (9 p.m. ET) from the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The interim IBF welterweight title bout will make the winner the mandatory challenger for Errol Spence Jr.'s title. Spence, who has been off for more than a year due to both the coronavirus pandemic and a scary car crash, returns on Dec. 5 in a pay-per-view clash with former champion Danny Garcia.
The 31-year-old Lipinets is riding a three-fight win streak, which includes a fight-of-the-year contender against Lamont Peterson, following the lone defeat of his career when he lost his IBF junior welterweight title to Mikey Garcia in 2018.
The change in opponent didn't come as a complete shock to Lipinets who, after being made aware of Abdukakhorov's potential issues, was given Clayton's name as a potential replacement. That allowed Lipinets and trainer Joe Goossen enough time to alter their game plan for this weekend.
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"It was really all about Joe putting pieces together for my style no matter who we were going to face," Lipinets said during Thursday's virtual press conference. "People might not think it, but I can box and move around the ring well. Joe has added elements to it that made it a more fluid style."
Clayton, a 33-year-old former Olympian nicknamed "War Machine," said he greatly benefited from the five-week notice that the fight was a possibility and believes he has the style to perfectly contrast Lipinets' aggression.
"Most people look at me as an aggressive fighter, as well. I always like to bang, but I think you are going to see a different side to me," Clayton said. "I think my boxing ability is going to be the biggest factor in this fight. It's just that nobody has seen it yet. That will be the big key. People don't understand how smart I am. I don't look at the size. I'm prepared for whatever."
Regardless of what's at stake should he be victorious, Lipinets vows to give Clayton the full respect he deserves once they step into the ring.
"I don't look past Clayton. I have to win that fight and I'm 100% focused on him," Lipinets said. "But I do believe that I belong on the level with Errol Spence Jr. and the other elite welterweights. I think I've shown that my whole career. Before I can look at a fight against Spence or Danny Garcia, I have to win on Saturday."
The co-main event will see a pair of super featherweights battle it out when Xavier Martinez takes on Claudio Marrero. Martinez is a perfect 15-0 with 11 KOs to his name. His last seven fights have all ended in a stoppage, albeit against lesser competition. Marrero is no slouch, though, as the veteran is durable and should prove to be formidable. He has alternated wins and losses over his last five and was stopped by Kid Galahad in February.
- Sergey Lipinets vs. Custio Clayton, welterweights
- Xavier Martinez vs. Claudio Marrero, super featherweights
- Malik Hawkins vs. Subriel Matias, junior welterweights
The most glaring difference between the two fighters is Clayton's lack of experience against elite competition. Not only has Clayton never fought professionally outside of his native Canada, he has never faced someone with the combination of skill and relentlessness that has become Lipinets' calling card.
Expect Lipinets' educated pressure to swallow Clayton up as the rounds advance. He lands accurate and powerful combinations in close and has a chin to withstand the firepower in return, even as a smaller welterweight.
Pick: Lipinets via unanimous decision