During the Cold War, boxing fans often wondered what would happen if the best of the Soviet Bloc fighters turned pro. Rocky IV is nothing but a poorly executed film version of those fantasy match ups.
But the Berlin Wall came down almost 30 years ago, with the Soviet Bloc collapsing shortly afterward. In the generation since those history shaking events, Eastern European and Central Asian fighters have emerged as top stars in the sport.
The Klitschko brothers ruled the heavyweight division for the first part of this century. Kostya Tszyu is in the Hall of Fame. But the past decade has seen an acceleration of this trend.
Right now, middleweight star Gennady Golovkin from Kazakhstan in widely hailed as the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighter. With Terence Crawford officially moving up to welterweight, Golovkin’s countryman Sergey Lipinets just might be the best fighter in the world at 140 pounds.
Lipinets took the vacant IBF title at super lightweight Saturday night in Brooklyn, easily decisioning Japan’s Akihiro Kondo, despite fighting half the bout with a terrible gash in his forehead. That IBF belt has no legitimate standing as a world title. But it does establish Lipinets as a major player in the division.
Lipinets has fought just 13 times as a professional, winning 10 of those bouts by KO. But he has been handling experienced opponents with ease since his 2014 debut.
The 140-pound division is wide-open right now. There is already a lot of chatter about Adrien Broner as a potential opponent for Lipinets. That would be a lottery ticket for the Kazak fighter–Broner is one of the sport’s more high-profile competitors. An impressive performance against him would establish Lipinets as a star.