Former world champion Sergey Lipinets and the undefeated Custio Clayton battled to a 12-round majority draw with the IBF interim 147lbs title at stake at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Saturday night.
Two even scores of 114-114 overruled a 115-113 nod for Clayton.
The Canadian caused significant problems with his smooth jab and stellar movement with Lipinets’ best moments coming courtesy of a brutal body attack. But in his first major test, the unsung Clayton illustrated he belongs at this level.
Lipinets (16-1-1, 12 KOs) rarely took a backward step, but Clayton was fresh at the finish, winning the last three rounds on all the judges’ cards to clinch the draw.
“I showed the world that I’m not just a guy from Canada,” said Clayton. “I proved I’m a good fighter. People will have to respect me a little bit more. If Lipinets wants the rematch for the interim title, we should be able to make that happen.”
“For the interim title, I’ll be ready for a rematch with Clayton,” added former IBF 140lbs champion Lipinets. “I thought I won the fight, but Clayton is a good fighter. He was stronger than I thought he’d be. I haven’t fought in a year and it shows. I need to get my rhythm back in a couple of fights before I face the top level fighters.”
Clayton (18-0-1, 12 KOs) continued: “At the end of the day, you can’t knock the judges’ decision, but I thought that I landed the cleaner shots and won. He came forward a lot, but he wasn’t landing as much. I probably could have pushed more a little earlier, but at the same time, I knew he was strong. I thought I stayed patient and poised. I could have put combinations together quicker, but overall I thought I fought a smart fight and pulled it off.”
On the same show, unbeaten 130-pounder Xavier Martinez (16-0, 11 KOs) survived two knockdowns to earn a unanimous decision over Dominican Claudio Marrero (24-5, 17 KOs) in a WBA title eliminator. Scores were 115-111 and 114-112 (twice).
“Not every win is going to be pretty and a knockout, but if you can pull yourself out of tough situations, it proves what type of fighter you are,” said Sacramento’s Martinez. “I knew it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. I told [my trainer] Ray [Woods] I might hit this guy a couple of times and he might not drop. It’s all part of the experience.”
The fight swung one way and the next. Martinez impressed with his combination punching, but in the eighth southpaw Marrero dropped him with a solid right hook. Californian Martinez was dropped again with the same shot later in the round, but survived the subsequent siege. Marrero’s right eye gradually closed as Martinez recovered his momentum and saw out a hard-fought win.
“To be honest, it was weird when I got knocked down,” said Martinez. “I just said, ‘Let’s get back up.’ Losing wasn’t on my mind. I just thought I have to get up. I’m not happy I went down but it’s all an experience. A lot of guys wouldn’t have fought Claudio. He was tough. But I rose to the occasion and I proved something to myself.
“I have the will to win. I just didn’t want to lose. I trained very hard for this fight, and I wasn’t going to go out like that. I wanted to show everyone that even though I got dropped, I could come back and win it. Some young fighters will fold, but I showed that I won’t. I’m proud of myself.”
Dominican Marrero, who was stopped by Kid Galahad (LRTD8) in February, believed he’d done enough. “I feel like it was a bad decision,” said Marrero. “I don’t think the judges took into account all the hard work I did in the ring. I wouldn’t do anything different if I fought him again. I would fight the same way. I fought smart and I put pressure on him. He hits hard, but I recovered quickly. I felt like I won the fight.”
In the show opener, super-lightweight Subriel Matias (16-1, 16 KOs) scored a seventh-round TKO victory over the previously unbeaten Malik Hawkins (18-1, 11 KOs) after six rounds of action. The fight was stopped on the recommendation of the ringside physician due to Hawkins’ swollen right eye prior to the start of the seventh round and the bout was officially scored as a TKO, one second into the seventh.
“The biggest difference between this fight and my loss [L10 Petros Ananyan in February] was the way I trained in the gym,” said Puerto Rico’s Matias. “I didn’t train as much as I should have for my last fight. Malik didn’t have the power to hurt me. In the first round, I knew that. And that’s when I kept moving forward and starting hurting him in the body. That’s what I kept doing, just going to the body.”
Matias’ ceaseless aggression and switched attacks between head and body, gradually wore down a tiring Hawkins before the Baltimore man was dropped with a left hook in the sixth. Matias led by the score of 59-54 on all three judges’ cards at the time of the stoppage.
“He was doing a bunch of dirty things in the fight,” claimed Hawkins. “I’m not going to sit here and cry over spilled milk. He was the better man tonight. I’m getting right back into the gym.”
“I’ll fight anyone,” added Puerto Rican Matias. “Whoever they put in front of me, it doesn’t matter. I want a title eliminator, and then I want to fight for a world title.”
Main image and all photos: Amanda Westcott/Showtime.