Sergey Lipinets and Custio Clayton fought to a spirited draw in a strong tactical bout in tonight’s Showtime main event, with Canada’s Clayton raising his profile and Russia’s Lipinets hanging tough in the crowded 147-pound division.
Lipinets (16-1-1, 12 KO) was originally meant to fight Kudratillo Abdukakhorov in tonight’s interim IBF title fight — really just an eliminator in many ways — but Abdukakhorov couldn’t get his visa issue sorted in time, so the ex-Olympian Clayton stepped in on short notice.
The fight was a big ask of Clayton, who fought well at London 2012, losing in the quarterfinal round, but hadn’t really done anything as a professional in nearly six years. And at 33, it begged the question of whether Clayton had perhaps been mismanaged a bit in his career, or was being hidden for fear of being exposed.
The 31-year-old Lipinets is not an elite-tier fighter, but he’s a strong second-level sort of guy, a former titleholder at 140 who has been solid at 147, too, and a big step up for Clayton. But the Canadian passed the test tonight, even without getting the W, showing a good skill set and certainly making us wish he’d been able to take this step sooner in his career, because there’s no question now that he’s a pretty high-level fighter.
Clayton won one card on a score of 115-113, and the other two were both even at 114-114. Bad Left Hook had it 115-113 for Lipinets, but this was just a tough fight to score, and the majority of rounds saw both men with an argument.
It was Clayton fighting really well late in the bout, with Lipinets perhaps fatiguing a bit, that got him the draw. He won the last three rounds on all judges’ score cards, and the last five on the card of Tom Schreck, who wound up with one of the 114-114 scores. Even if Schreck had scored the fight to Lipinets, we still would have had a draw, and a perfectly reasonable one at that.
This means that the IBF situation stays pretty much where it was, except now Clayton is legitimately in the discussion, and not just subbing in for Abdukakhorov, who has already won an eliminator, for what it’s worth. The IBF belt, of course, is one of two held by Errol Spence Jr, who defends that and the WBC title against Danny Garcia on Dec. 5 on FOX pay-per-view.
How did you score this one? Did you have a particularly strong feeling either way, or is the even result totally fair?
Xavier Martinez UD-12 Claudio Marrero
A very, very close fight, where Marrero came quite close to an upset of the hyped prospect Martinez in this WBA 130-pound eliminator.
Scores were 114-112, 114-112, and 115-111 for Martinez, who improves to 16-0 (11 KO) and showed some genuine promise against a crafty, solid veteran, but also some holes in his game and some weaknesses in the step up in class.
Marrero (24-5, 17 KO) dropped the 23-year-old Martinez twice in the eighth round, and really went for a finish, but to Martinez’s credit, he held on there, finished the round, and fought pretty well the rest of the fight.
Marrero, 31, was moving up in weight and coming off of losses in two of his last three, including a pretty one-sided beatdown against Kid Galahad in February. But he showed he’s far from finished, at the very least as a high-level gatekeeper, and that he has the power and skills to compete at the new weight.
Martinez showed a lot of poise in this fight, especially for a young fighter, and fought smart most of the time. He did get clipped, he did get dropped, and he did recover very well. If you weren’t already paying attention to Xavier Martinez, it’s time to do so.
“I’ve got the will to win and I didn’t want to lose. I wanted to show everyone that even though I got dropped, I could come back to win it,” Martinez said after the bout. “I feel like a lot of young fighters — some will fold, I didn’t fold under that pressure. I’m proud of myself. I showed a lot of character with this fight.”
Subriel Matias TKO-7 Malik Hawkins
This one was interesting on paper, a chance for Hawkins to prove his quality as a 24-year-old prospect at 140, or a chance for Matias to bounce back from a pretty notable upset loss in February.
It went Matias’ way, and quite clearly. Hawkins (18-1, 11 KO) had a solid start in the opening round, but it just sort of broke down from there, as he wasn’t able to deter Matias (16-1, 16 KO), couldn’t control distance with his jab like he wanted, and also just ate a lot of power shots and some hard jabs from the 28-year-old Puerto Rican, who rather dominated after the opening three minutes.
Matias seemed to gain in confidence by round, to the point that he was just walking straight to Hawkins with his hands at his side, and Hawkins couldn’t do much of anything about it. This was a fight where the guy losing was taking a lot more punishment that might have been plainly obvious; by the time it was over, Hawkins had looked hurt a handful of times, had been dropped in the sixth round (though that might have been a shot accidentally to the back of the head more than a clean punch), and his right eye was pretty much shut.
The doctor had looked at Hawkins previously, and when referee Johnny Callas asked him to do so again at the very start of the seventh round, the doctor advised the stoppage, which was the right call.
Matias puts himself back in the race at junior welterweight with this win. Hawkins will have to go back to the drawing board at the very least. He’d struggled with Darwin Price in his last fight in Dec. 2019, which Hawkins won on a knee injury stoppage while trailing on all three cards, and tonight he got beaten up. The steps up in competition have not been kind to him.