Growing up as a boxing fan during the Cold War, you always knew that a huge pool of potential talent was going untapped for the professional ranks. The entire basis for Rocky IV was that the Russians had finally decided to bring out one of their elite amateurs, to challenge the best professional champions in the world. The real life version of Ivan Drago was the Cuban legend Teofilo Stevenson. The three-time Olympic gold medalist sparked fervent speculation over how he would have matched up against the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier.
The Klitschko brothers paved the way for fighters from the former Soviet Bloc, but it’s really taken a full generation for the full impact of the Iron Curtain’s collapse. In today’s boxing universe, the influence of the former Warsaw Pact nation’s cannot be denied. Luis Ortiz of Cuba is arguably the best heavyweight on the planet and his countryman Guillermo Rigondeaux might be the best fighter in the world below featherweight. Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin is the most feared middleweight in the world and Russia’s Sergey Kovalev is the dangerous monster at light heavyweight. Although he has less than 10 pro fights, Vasyl Lomachenko of the Ukraine just might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
Another potential star from the old Soviet Empire is in action this weekend in Mississippi. Super lightweight Sergey Lipinets of Kazakhstan has just nine professional fights, but he’s already fighting a high level of competition. At the rate he is going, he’ll be in the mix for a title shot by next year.
Lipinets has been on the fast track since he started. He was a WAKO World Full Contact MMA champ and decorated amateur boxer in Russia. In his first pro bout he defeated a veteran with a 21-14 record. Last year he knocked out 37-19-3 Cosme Rivera in March and 20-1 Kendal Mena in July. In October he gave Haskell Rhodes his first defeat, by near shutout unanimous decision.
Castillo is another experienced professional, who has faced Amir Iman, among others. But he’s no better than other opponents Lipinets has faced. Keep an eye out for Lipinets over the next few years.