“The Wolf” is howling. Go ahead, let him bay, says Sergey Lipinets.
Levan Ghvamichava (16-1-1, 12 KOs), a hirsute heavy hitter whose lupine-like appearance suggests that he would be as adept at terrorizing Little Red Riding Hood as fellow fighters, has been barking hard at Sergey Lipinets (8-0, 6 KOs), whom he faces in a headlining 140-pound bout Tuesday night (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Both Georgia’s Ghvamichava and Kazakhstan’s Lipinets hail from former Soviet Union countries, and Ghvamichava, whose nickname is “The Wolf,” has been playing up the regional rivalry.
“It was brought to my attention that ‘The Wolf’ told somebody that Georgia was oppressed by Russians,” says Lipinets' manager, Alex Vaysfeld, who slaps away Ghvamichava’s comments with the ease of a tennis pro returning serve from your grandma.
“Sergey is a guy who never changes the expression of his face,” he continues, noting his fighter’s stoic disposition. “He doesn’t care about all that. There is no animosity. There is no rivalry. There is nothing. He’s never even watched [Ghvamichava] fight. He barely knows what he looks like.”
Lipinets will get an eyeful soon enough.
A former champion kickboxer whose aim is to cannonball into the deep end of boxing's talent pool as quickly as possible, Lipinets is putting himself to the test early and often, having turned pro less than two years ago.
Last time out, Lipinets got the best win of his burgeoning career by upsetting fellow 140-pound prospect Lydell Rhodes in October. In earning a 10-round unanimous decision, Lipinets demonstrated an ability to think on his feet and adjust as he successfully corralled a fast, slick boxer who did his best to smother Lipinets' dogged attack. Rhodes held so much that he was eventually docked a point for it.
So what did the 26-year-old fighter glean from the victory?
“I learned how to go 10 rounds with a guy who was constantly moving,” Lipinets says. “I learned how to change the game plan as I went. I was changing my strategy in the middle of the rounds.
"Rhodes would clinch me a lot once he trapped me on the ropes, and I learned to how to get out of those clinches the right way. I learned a lot.”
Thus far, Lipinets’ in-ring education has been focused on merging the Russian style of fighting, which is generally posited on technical refinement and defensive mastery, with a more aggressive, TV-friendly approach.
“My boxing skills were developed in the Russian amateur system, where there’s a certain way of fighting,” Lipinets explains. “I needed to transform into the American system of fighting, something that would be more pleasurable to watch for American fans.”
The fact that Lipinets, who weighed in for Tuesday's fight at 141 pounds, is still very much a work in progress can play to his benefit, his handlers believe. Vaysfeld's theory: If Lipinets is still figuring out who he is as a fighter, his opponents will struggle to do the same, including Ghvamichava, who hit the scale Monday at 140.4 pounds.
“One thing I can tell you right now, whatever they saw on video of Sergey, they’re going to face a completely different righter,” Vaysfeld says. “If they think they’re going to build their strategy based on what they saw in his past fights, that’s the wrong approach.”
Whatever approach the 30-year-old Ghvamichava does take, his showdown with Lipinets figures to be explosive, as both fighters have stopped the majority of their opponents and each is eager to build a bigger name for himself stateside.
Lipinets, in particular, is looking to open eyes by hammering Ghvamichava’s swollen shut.
“I want fans here in the United States to see me, recognize me,” he says. “I want them to know who Sergey Lipinets is.”
For full coverage of Lipinets vs Ghvamichava, visit our fight page.