A former kickboxing champion, Sergey Lipinets is now speeding down boxing’s fast track

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Sergey Lipinets is talking about eating endless elbows and legs, the steady diet of punishment inherent in his past as a professional kickboxer. “Those shots will either make you fall down or become real, real, real tough,” he says. Lipinets isn’t big on the whole falling down thing. So, real, real, real tough he became.

Sergey Lipinets and Lydell Rhodes

Unbeaten 140-pound contender Sergey Lipinets, right, possesses power in both hands and an avid chess player's love of strategy.

It’s been less than two years since Sergey Lipinets left behind a championship career in kickboxing and turned pro as a boxer.

Flattening the sport’s learning curve like it was just another opponent, the Kazakhstan native is following a direct path up the boxing ranks, just like the one blazed by his countryman and former 175-pound champion Beibut Shumenov, himself a former kickboxing standout.

Shumenov battled for a world title in just his ninth pro boxing bout. Similarly, Lipinets is also laying rubber on boxing’s fast track, having won all of eight of his fights since April 2014 while taking on stiffer and stiffer competition.

As he prepares to next face Levan Ghvamichava (16-1-1, 12 KOs) on March 15 in Nice, California (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), Lipinets already has his designs on a title shot of his own.

According to his manager, Alex Vaysfeld, this has been the plan all along, to waste no time attempting to lay waste to the 140-pound division.

“He specifically asked me not to give him any shortcuts,” says Vaysfeld, who doubles as the interpreter for the Russian-speaking Lipinets. “He wants to fight on a top level, make money and become a champion of the world. That’s all that he wants.”

For Lipinets, this has meant testing himself early and often.

To wit, after relocating to the U.S. to embark on his new career as a prizefighter, Lipinets’ very first sparring sessions were against former 135-pound title challenger Ray Beltran, a tough, well-tested veteran who’s been in with such quality opponents as Hank Lundy, Ricky Burns and Terence Crawford.

“Having no professional boxing experience at all and sparring with somebody like Ray Beltran, going at it for six rounds, wow!” Vaysfeld recalls. “I knew I had something right then and there. Even Ray told me, ‘Hold onto this kid, because he can fight.’”

Vaysfeld became aware of Lipinets from one of his good friends, who happened to be Lipinets’ kickboxing trainer. The trainer thought Lipinets had accomplished all he could in that sport, and could become a bigger star in boxing. To hear Lipinets tell it, his past continues to pay dividends in the present.

“In kickboxing, my trainer was emphasizing handwork a lot and made me do a lot of things right,” he says. “I can fight southpaw [and] I can fight orthodox, because I got used to switching back and forth in kickboxing.”

Lipinets may have impressive power in both hands—he’s stopped all but two of his opponents thus far—but what’s arguably been more integral to his early success has been his skill at deploying that power wisely.

A sharp and calculating fighter, Lipinets is a steely, studious presence in the ring.

It’s become cliché to compare fights to chess matches, seeing as how both are posited on the ability to anticipate your opponent’s next move and adjust your strategy accordingly. But for Lipinets, there’s a real-life dimension to it all.

He’s a serious chess aficionado, and has been since he was a kid, when he dreamed of doing it for a living.

“He’s a really good player,” Vaysfeld says. “Trust me, I’ve been playing all my life, ever since I was 5 years old, and it’s really hard to beat him.”

The same could be said when the action moves to the ring.

For full coverage of Lipinets vs Ghvamichava, visit our fight page.

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