Coming in on five days’ notice, you would expect former world champion Sergey Lipinets to not be at his best, but that was clearly not the case. Lipinets dropped and punished former world champion Omar “Panterita” Figueroa Jr. for eight rounds, causing Figueroa’s father and trainer Omar Sr. to stop the fight before the start of the ninth round in a scheduled 12-round WBC Super Lightweight title eliminator headlining live on SHOWTIME Saturday, August 20 from Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. in a Premier Boxing Champions Event.
A disappointed Figueroa announced his retirement following the fight, which based on his performance Saturday night, might be a good thing.
Lipinets dropped Figueroa (28-3-1, 19 KOs) with a short, compact counter right hand with a minute left in the second round. Figueroa rose on shaky legs and Lipinets (17-2-1, 13 KOs) moved in and inflicted more punishment, round after round until the bout was stopped. Lipinets was initially penciled in to perform on the non-televised portion of the undercard but was shifted to the main event when former four-time champion Adrien Broner withdrew from the matchup with Figueroa, citing mental health issues.
Photos: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME
“I had a good fighter in front of me,” Lipinets said in the ring afterward. “My hat’s off to Omar for being a warrior. The punch that rocked Omar is the punch that my trainer and I have been working on for a long time. He came at me, and it was the perfect time to use it. I was too focused on protecting myself. I was concerned about him answering my punches, but it was not my job to stop the fight. 140 is my weight. I came back. I’m back.”
Lipinets held Figueroa to just 44 landed punches over eight rounds while landing 172 shots and 46.7% of his power punches on his way to the 8th round TKO.
Once an aggressive, punishing fighter who overwhelmed his opponents with pressure, Figueroa suffered his third straight loss after dropping a decision to Yordenis Ugas in 2019 and suffering a KO loss to Abel Ramos in May 2021. Figueroa fought valiantly, even stunning Lipinets with a right hand midway through the sixth, but it was otherwise a resounding performance from Lipinets, who stamped his name as a player in the suddenly crowded super lightweight division.
Lipinets hadn’t fought in 16 months since a sixth-round knockout loss to uber-talented welterweight Jaron Ennis, but the change in weight and opponent served him well.
In the run-up to Saturday’s fight, Figueroa emerged as an eloquent spokesperson for people struggling with mental health issues after he was diagnosed with his own set of mental health concerns. In the ring afterward, Figueroa reflected on his career, on the limitations of his athletic abilities and on the birth of his daughter earlier in the day in announcing his retirement.
“I’m happy that I got to enjoy this last camp. I had a great time,” he said. “For everyone out there going through a tough time or in a dark place, I want to say, ‘don’t you ever give up. Keep up the fight.’”
-In an all-action affair, Alberto Puello and Batyr Akhmedov produced one of the better and compelling fights of 2022, but it was Puello who made history for his country, becoming the first Dominican fighter to ever win a title at 140 pounds by claiming the vacant WBA Super Lightweight World Championship in the co-main event by split decision. The judges Benoit Roussel and Mark Streisand both scored the bout 117-111 for Puello, while Lisa Giampa awarded Akhmedov’s aggression with a scorecard of 115-113.
Puello (21-0, 10 KOs) was able to handle the constant pressure of Akhmedov, who came up short for the second title fight of his career after he lost a decision to Mario Barrios in 2019. Puello was able to fight well off the ropes and answer the advances of Akhmedov (9-2, 8 KOs) with stinging combinations. Puello joined his countrymen Hector Garcia, who dethroned Roger Gutierrez for a 130-pound championship earlier in the evening, to produce arguably the greatest day in the history of Dominican boxing with two title winners. The two are good friends, both sharing the hometown of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic.
Puello was the busier fighter, out-throwing his opponent by a margin of 825 to 764, but Akhmedov out-landed him 207-191 and had a 198-168 edge in power punches landed.
“This was the hardest fight of my life, but the one I prepared the most for,” Puello said in the ring. “I do feel a lot of emotions, and two Dominicans were crowned champions on the same night. This win means a lot to me. This is a big thing for us Dominicans because my friend Hector Garcia and I are bringing two titles back home. My hometown, San Juan de la Maguana has already started the party and they are waiting for Garcia and I to come back and join them.”
Garcia wins again:
-Earlier in the evening, Hector Garcia proved that his dominant win against Chris Colbert in February wasn’t a fluke.
Garcia, a former Olympian from the Dominican Republic, dictated the action and survived a late rally to wrest the WBA Super Featherweight World Championship from Roger Gutierrez via a unanimous decision by scores of 117-111, 117-111 and 118-110 from Alexander Levin, Michael Ross and Fred Fluty to remain undefeated at 16-0 with 10 KOs.
“It means a lot to me to win this title,” Garcia said. “I dedicate it to my people, the entire Dominican Republic and my town, San Juan de la Maguana. In the pros, nobody knew me. But in the amateurs, people knew my name. I went to the Olympics – it was my dream. I had a good run. [Gutierrez] was looking for the right punch to take me down, but I was able to dominate, dictate the pace of the fight and get the win.”
After beating the previously undefeated Colbert as a late replacement on two-weeks-notice on February 26 when Gutierrez withdrew because of COVID, a focused and strategic Garcia kept Gutierrez on his back foot for most of the fight as he fed the titleholder a steady diet of up-jabs and hard lefts to rack up the first nine rounds on all three scorecards.
But Gutierrez, his hair tinted green and his left ear cut and bloody, stormed back in the later rounds, winning the final three frames on two of the judges’ scorecards as the southpaw Garcia appeared to tire and was squaring himself up. Gutierrez (26-4-1, 20 KOs) pushed Garcia back with right hands, his energy and punch-output surging. He appeared to hurt Garcia in the 11th round with a right as Garcia sagged against the ropes, but Garcia answered with lefts and rights of his own to blunt the rally.
Garcia out-landed Gutierrez 156-116 in total punches and landed 35% of his power punches.
Lee overcomes adversity: