The former super lightweight champion has his sights set on stardom as he prepares to face dangerous former world titleholder Lamont Peterson Sunday night on FS1.
Sergey Lipinets proved early in his professional boxing career that he was anything but ordinary.
The kickboxer-turned-boxer was only 1-0 as a pro when he ran into bruising Raymundo Beltran at the Churchill Boxing Club in Santa Monica, California. Beltran, one of the most physical fighters in the game, needed a sparring partner that day and Lipinets didn’t hesitate to volunteer.
Lipinets’ longtime manager, Alex Vaysfeld, was aghast at the thought but Lipinets insisted. And he made an impression in the session.
“I thought to myself, ‘This isn’t a good idea. It’s suicide.’ Afterward, Beltran said, ‘Who the hell is this guy? He’s an animal,’” said Vaysfeld, whose fighter faces Lamont Peterson in a Premier Boxing Champions welterweight bout Sunday in Oxon Hill, Maryland, on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
That toughness has allowed Lipinets (14-1, 10 KOs) to make a seamless – and rapid – transition from kickboxing to boxing, in which he won a major title in only his 13th pro fight by easily outpointing Akihiro Kondo in November 2017.
The Kazakhstan-born Russian took up kick boxing at 12-years-old and found great success, ultimately winning a world championship. The problem was that kickboxing wasn’t where the money was and he needed to take care of his family, which motivated him to move into boxing at 25 years old (he’s 29 now) with the help of Vaysfeld.
His philosophy from the start: Don’t waste time, take only meaningful fights, make an impact right away, take care of mom. Lipinets bought her a house in Russia as soon as he could afford it.
“She never felt like a complete person because she never had a place to call her own,” Lipinets said through a translator. “She was always moving from one place to another. I looked at boxing and thought, ‘I can make a lot of money at a certain level.’ And that’s what I wanted to do.
“I believed in myself. That’s why I never wanted to fight at a level where I knew it didn’t matter.”
Lipinets fought his first 10-rounder in only his fifth fight and his first 12-rounder in his 10th, which was an eighth-round knockout of Leonardo Zappavigna in December 2016 that reinforced his reputation as an entertaining, pressure fighter and put him in position to fight for his first major title.
That came two fights later, when he fought Kondo for the vacant IBF 140-pound belt in Brooklyn. Lipinets, demonstrating formidable skills to go with his brawn, easily outpointed his Japanese opponent to become one of the few kickboxers to win a major boxing championship.
Of course, Lipinets was pleased with the milestone but not overly so. He had his eye on bigger names.
“I was very happy,” he said. “I achieved something that takes most fighters many fights to accomplish. I did it in only 13. And he was a tough guy, no slouch. But he wasn’t a name guy, he wasn’t a guy who could’ve made a big difference in my career. I want every fight to make a difference.”
“ I want every fight to make a difference. ” Former World Super Lightweight Champion - Sergey Lipinets
That opportunity came in his first defense four months later in San Antonio, against pound-for-pounder Mikey Garcia.
Lipinets was competitive but went down in the seventh round and couldn’t match Garcia’s skillset, losing his title by a clear unanimous decision. The now-former champion was disappointed but undeterred. He realized a goal by facing a top-tier opponent and learned from the experience.
“I did what I wanted to do,” he said. “I took a step forward by fighting someone like Mikey. There are no regrets whatsoever.”
And Vaysfeld said there was a silver lining.
“There are losses and then there are losses like that one,” he said. “The loss against Garcia blew Sergey’s name up. Look at social media. He walks into an arena and the Mexican, Latino fans, everybody knows who he is. Everybody tries to take a picture with him. He made his name fighting Mikey.”
Still, the next step in Lipinets’ career was complicated. He loved the idea of taking part in the World Boxing Super Series junior welterweight tournament, which begins this fall. However, because of what Vaysfeld called “boxing politics,” Lipinets wasn’t invited to take part in the eight-man competition.
That prompted him to move up to 147 pounds, where there are more of those big-name potential opponents Lipinets covets.
Lipinets defeated Ecuadorian Erick Bone by a tougher-than-expected majority decision in his first welterweight fight, in August, after which he hired veteran Los Angeles-based trainer Joe Goossen to handle him.
They started working together in November in the L.A. community of Van Nuys, not far from where Lipinets lives with wife and young son. And Goossen has been impressed, particularly with his protégé’s effort.
“He’s very, very dedicated,” Goossen said. “You could have an out-of-this-world talented guy who doesn’t want to give 100 percent. Sergey is a very talented guy, a former world champ, who gives 120 percent. What trainer wouldn’t be happy with that? I’m ecstatic. He’s a consummate pro.
“And I like the fact he aims high. Look at the guys he’s fought. He’s had almost no easy touches.”
Peterson (35-4-1, 17 KOs) isn’t expected to be an easy touch either. The 35-year-old former junior welterweight titleholder hasn’t been as active as he once was – having fought twice in 3.5 years, including a KO loss to Errol Spence in his most recent bout – but he is always ready to fight when he steps into the ring.
Lipinets believes this bout fits nicely into his career plan: It’s an important fight against a well-known opponent that could lead to a big-money event.
“It’s a big fight,” Lipinets said. “Lamont is holding the door that will either be open or closed for me. He knows how to keep it closed. If I walk through that door, if I do what I have to do with Lamont, that will set me up for a big one.”
For a closer look at Sergey Lipinets, check out his fighter page.