Mikey Garcia is expected in Los Angeles Monday for a session with reporters, where he’ll be asked to explain why he’s chosen to fight mostly anonymous Sergey Lipinets in his next bout.
Showtime announced Thursday that Riverside-trained Garcia (37-0, 30 knockouts) will meet Eastern Europe’s new International Boxing Federation junior-welterweight champion Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs) Feb. 10 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The co-main event will also be a 140-pound title fight, with Cuba’s Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs) meeting Belarus’ Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KOs) in a rematch for the World Boxing Assn. belt vacated by Terence Crawford.
While World Boxing Council lightweight champion Garcia will have the opportunity to gain a world title in a fourth division against the defensively suspect Lipinets, his allegiance to powerful manager Al Haymon and Showtime in this case will puzzle boxing followers.
Earlier this year, Garcia rejected an offer to fight for Golden Boy Promotions and HBO in a deal that would’ve put Garcia against now-retired Miguel Cotto for a 154-pound belt, with the opportunity to meet Venezuela’s World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion Jorge Linares in a title unification in 2018.
Both of those foes are more high-profile names than Lipinets’, who resides in Beverly Hills.
Cotto was a diminished version of the man who racked up four division titles in his Dec. 2 loss to Sadam Ali in their 154-pound title fight at Madison Square Garden.
Proceeding to a Linares bout, in which Garcia would also be favored, would enliven interest in a showdown that many want to see in 2018 between Garcia and super-featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, who is in contention with recent four-belt 140-pound champion Crawford for the Boxing Writers Assn. of America fighter of the year award.
Skeptics of the Golden Boy offer counter that it was disguised as a multi-fight promotional deal, and that friction between Haymon and Golden Boy Chairman Oscar De La Hoya made such an arrangement impossible.
Lipinets’ power-punching ability has made him a champion, and was considered by Garcia as a factor that will better prepare him for future bouts.
If victorious, Garcia will join Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as the only fighters who have won world titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140 pounds.
The question for now, is who is he preparing for?
Would he take the victory and fight the Barthelemy-Relikh winner? That doesn’t inspire the masses.
That bout is a reunion after Barthelemy survived a fifth-round knockdown at the hands of Relikh in May and knocked Relikh down in the eighth en route to a unanimous-decision victory at MGM National Harbor near Baltimore.
Or would Garcia consider another move up, to welterweight, and meet one of Haymon’s unbeaten champions Keith Thurman or Errol Spence Jr.
Garcia spent three years on the sidelines while splitting from promoter Top Rank, which he felt was restricting his rise, but that company – now better financially armed with a new ESPN television deal – can offer both Lomachenko and Crawford for what would be compelling, if not pay-per-view, bouts.
Garcia left to become his own man, to take his career to new heights achieved through his independence.
For now, he’s in training for Sergey Lipinets.