Lydell Rhodes’ two-part plan: beat Sergey Lipinets, then graduate from opening act to headliner

Lydell Rhodes was going about his business in a Las Vegas gym recently, training for his upcoming fight against Sergey Lipinets. Then in walked the gym’s owner—some dude named Floyd Mayweather Jr.—and after the two exchanged fist bumps, Rhodes took his training session to another level.

Lydell Rhodes

Lydell Rhodes finishes a right hand against Jared Robinson on June 21 in Las Vegas. Fighting at 11 a.m. on the opening bout of that day's card, Rhodes and Robinson battled to a split draw. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

“Floyd was at the gym one day I was there, and he was cool like always, giving me dap to say, ‘What’s up?’” Rhodes says of the man who recently retired undefeated and is in the conversation for top pound-for-pound fighter in history. “But 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.”

Lydell Rhodes (23-0-1, 11 KOs) will get an opportunity to display his skills to Mayweather and others during Friday’s 138-pound catchweight bout against Sergey Lipinets (7-0, 6 KOs).

“I’m going in with a game plan that will utilize all of my physical gifts,” Rhodes says. “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. It’s something I can show you better than tell you, so tune in on [Friday night].”

The scheduled 10-round bout from The Venue at UCF in Orlando, Florida, (Bounce TV, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) will be Rhodes’ first under Chris Ben-Tchavtchavadze, a strength-and-conditioning guru for Mayweather’s promotional company.

Ben-Tchavtchavadze represents the fifth different trainer for Rhodes, who went 3-0-1 with two knockouts under his most recent cornerman, Monyette Flowers.

“Lydell doesn't have many bad habits, he’s had some great sparring at Mayweather Boxing Club, and definitely gotten some attention being there,” Ben-Tchavtchavadze says. “I’ve had to pull him back more than I’ve had to push him.

“Mostly I focused on sharpening up his skills, and ways he can use them in this upcoming fight. Sergey is a naturally bigger fighter who will box and use his size, which will bring the best out of Lydell.”

You’ll see speed, speed and more speed. But with lightning also comes thunder, so you will see explosive power mixed in with movement. Lydell Rhodes on what to expect from him Friday against Sergey Lipinets

A 28-year-old Spencer, Oklahoma native, Rhodes is simply happy to be fighting at night instead of at 11 a.m. on the West Coast, which was the situation in June when he battled Jared Robinson to a split draw at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

That day, Rhodes and Robinson kicked off a fight card that culminated with a 1 p.m. PT main event in which Rances Barthelemy won a unanimous decision over Antonio DeMarco.

“We’ll be fighting at around 9 p.m., which is good since I’m a night owl. That’s when I come alive,” Rhodes says. “When I fought [Robinson] at 11 a.m., I had just rolled out of bed, the doors had just opened.”

And very few people had yet to walk through those doors, which Rhodes believes negatively impacted his performance.

“There was no one in the crowd, which had never happened on any card, even with my pro debut,” he says. “If I fight at the MGM in front of a crowd, I know I can shock a lot of people and make fans, because I make fans and friends everywhere I go.

“I like performing in front of crowds. That’s what drives me.”

This time around, Rhodes will fight Lipinets right before the main event between heavyweights Tony Thompson (40-5, 27 KOs) and Malik Scott (37-2-1, 13 KOs). But if things go according to Rhodes’ plans, this will be the last time one of his fights serves as the appetizer.

“I feel like, after this, if I show my skills, I’ll be a main attraction,” he says. “I need to go out, let my hands go and execute the game plan.

“I have power, moves, smarts and excellent hand speed to show the world that I can be the main event from here on out.”

For complete coverage of Rhodes vs Lipinets, check out our fight page.

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