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:
-In the telecast opener, the knockout artist Brandun Lee dealt with serious adversity for the first time in his career when he was dropped hard by a right hand in the third round. After rising and clearing the cobwebs, Lee relied on his boxing skills and savvy to capture his second straight 10-round decision against the tougher than expected Will Madera at a super lightweight bout waged at 143 pounds.
Despite the knockdown, Lee was otherwise dominant, winning by scores of 98-91 from the trio of judges Daniel Fitzgerald, Lisa Giampa and Mark Streisand to improve to 26-0 with 22 knockouts. Lee blamed overconfidence on getting caught in the third.
“I think I went in there a little too careless,” Lee said. “I told myself this guy has nothing to give me, but boy was I wrong. I lost focus and overlooked him for that split second. I was cautious in the first couple rounds, the first three until I got hit. I need to keep my left hand up and remain on my toes at all times. I’m not fighting tomato cans anymore, the dude was like No. 17 in the U.S. and has some experience. You can’t knock everyone out. I had to change the game plan. I went from moving forward to boxing. I got hit with a clean shot, but I kept on going. I recovered. Like I said before, death before dishonor.”
After bloodying Madera’s eye in the second round with a dagger of a right hand and left uppercut, the first time that Madera (17-2-3, 10 KOs) had ever been cut, Lee was caught by a picture-perfect counter overhand right that landed squarely on Lee’s chin, dropping the 23-year-old hard with around 20 seconds remaining in the third round, the first time in Lee’s career he touched the canvas. Lee of La Quinta, Calif. out-landed Madera 168-127 in total punches and threw 431 jabs to survive the scare and move on in his promising career.
Four-division world champion Adrien “The Problem” Broner, one of the sport’s most notable attractions and biggest personalities, will make his long-awaited return against all-action former world champion Omar “Panterita” Figueroa in a 12-round super lightweight showdown headlining action live on SHOWTIME on Saturday, August 20 from Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla. in a Premier Boxing Champions event.
The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and will feature top 140-pounders Alberto Puello and Batyr Akhmedov squaring off for the vacant WBA Super Lightweight World Championship in the co-main event. Plus, WBA Super Featherweight World Champion Roger Gutierrez defends his title against unbeaten Hector Garcia in the telecast opener.
The two former champions present an intriguing contrast of styles as the flashy, technical skills of Broner match up against the bruising, volume attack of Figueroa. Both fighters have reached incredible highs and delivered memorable moments throughout their careers and will look to go through one another to return to championship contention.
Cincinnati’s Broner (34-4-1, 24 KOs), is one of the most popular and colorful personalities in the sport and quickly rose to prominence by combining supreme boxing with a brash outspoken personality. By the age of 26, he had captured world titles at 130, 135, 140 and 147 pounds, becoming one of only eight active fighters to win a world championship in four divisions. Broner has faced several multi-division world champions such as Manny Pacquiao, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, Mikey Garcia and Jessie Vargas. He most recently won a unanimous decision over Jovanie Santiago in February 2021 and now returns to the super lightweight division where he dominated Khabib Allakhverdiev to win a 140-pound title in 2015.
“I’m going in there to try to stop Figueroa,” said Broner. “I’m going to take the fight to him and go ahead and get him out of there. What I expect from him is the same gruesome Figueroa that we always see. He’ll try to make it a rough fight. Every fighter is different, but I don’t think he’ll be hard to hit. So, I’ll see ya’ll on August 20.’’
The 32-year-old Figueroa (28-2-1, 19 KOs) is from a fighting family along with his younger brother Brandon, a former super bantamweight world champion. Figueroa won the WBC Lightweight World Championship with a unanimous decision victory over Nihito Arakawa in a 2013 “Fight of the Year” and successfully defended the title two times before moving up to super lightweight in 2015. Figueroa has also fought at welterweight, earning action-packed victories over Robert Guerrero, John Molina Jr., and Antonio DeMarco. He’ll move back down to super lightweight on August 20 after back-to-back defeats against Yordenis Ugas and Abel Ramos.
“I’m excited to move on to the next phase of my life and career, especially now that my mental health is at the forefront of everything I do,” said Figueroa. “Having a clear mind has been the best thing to happen to me. Now I’m able to focus 100% on my boxing career and I can’t wait to be back in the ring on August 20.”
A native of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, Puello (20-0, 10 KOs) now fights out of Las Vegas under the guidance of renowned coach Ismael Salas. The 27-year-old leapt up the rankings in July 2019, handing Jonathan Alonso his first career defeat with a unanimous decision victory that earned him an interim title. Puello was successful in his U.S. debut in December 2021, as he scored a unanimous decision victory over Veshawn Owens in Owen’s hometown.
“I’m very committed to winning this fight for my team and my country,” said Puello. “I am more than prepared to make the most of this opportunity. My only focus is on earning this victory, becoming world champion and taking on all the challenges that come my way after that.”
Born in Uzbekistan and now fighting out of Los Angeles, Akhmedov (9-1, 8 KOs) represented Turkey at the 2016 Olympic games. The 31-year-old turned pro in 2017 and won his first seven pro fights, with six coming by knockout. His lone blemish came in an action-packed title fight against Mario Barrios in September 2019, where he was able to survive two knockdowns to make it a close fight, before eventually losing by decision. Akhmedov has rebounded to win back-to-back fights, including a stoppage of the typically durable former world champion Argenis Mendez in June 2021.
“I’m excited that I’m finally getting my shot at the world title again,” said Akhmedov. “I have worked very hard to reach my goal of becoming world champion. This time, I’m going to do everything possible to make sure that I take full advantage of this opportunity.”
The 27-year-old Gutierrez (26-3-1, 20 KOs) captured his world title with a unanimous decision victory over Rene “Gemelo” Alvarado in January 2021, in a fight that saw him drop his opponent three times. Gutierrez followed up that performance by defending his world championship and defeating Alvarado a second time in August 2021, again earning a unanimous decision. Fighting out of his native Maracaibo, Venezuela, Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last seven outings, including four knockouts.
“I am excited to return to the ring and defend my title for the second time,” said Gutierrez. “This is going to be a difficult fight, but I am confident in my abilities and my preparation, and I know I will be victorious. I am ready to show the world again that I am the best in this division.”
Tall and rangy with good power in his left hand and a dedicated body attack, the 30-year-old Garcia (15-0, 10 KOs) scored one of the biggest upsets of the year in February, when he stepped in as a late replacement for Gutierrez to defeat then-unbeaten Chris Colbert on SHOWTIME in Las Vegas. The 5-9 Garcia represented his native San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, in the 2016 Olympics before turning pro in December that year. Along with his countryman Puello, Garcia is also trained by the highly respected Ismael Salas in Las Vegas.
“This is a very important fight for me because I have worked for so long to win a world title,” said Garcia. “This fight is for all of the people in the Dominican Republic. I can’t wait to display my skills for them once again on SHOWTIME. It’s also a very special night because me and my friend Alberto Puello will both be fighting for world titles, the first time two Dominicans will do so on the same night. We grew up together and had the same amateur coaches and now we have a chance to make history together.