Mikey Garcia chooses to fight Sergey Lipinets for chance to win world title in fourth weight division

After lightweight world titleholder Mikey Garcia moved up to junior welterweight and easily outpointed Adrien Broner in a nontitle fight on July 29, he had plenty of options.

At first he called out then-junior middleweight titleholder Miguel Cotto for a fight that would have been earlier this month had it happened. Garcia said he was willing to move up two more weight divisions to face Cotto, but ultimately Garcia didn't like the offer that was made to him.

That pushed Garcia's next bout into 2018, but he still had plenty of options: return to lightweight for a unification fight with either Jorge Linares or Robert Easter Jr., fight former lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa, who would be a massive underdog, or challenge rugged junior welterweight titleholder Sergey Lipinets for his belt and have a chance to win a world title in a fourth weight division.

Garcia decided on Lipinets. When the two met the media at the promotion's kickoff news conference on Monday at the Conga Room in downtown Los Angeles, Garcia explained why he picked Lipinets -- whom he will face on Feb. 10 (Showtime, 10:15 p.m. ET/PT) at the Alamodome in San Antonio -- over the other opponents.

"A world champion like Sergey Lipinets is more exciting an opponent for me than an easy title defense," Garcia said. "I wanted a challenge and this man presents that. He's a bigger man, naturally. He's going to be very hungry and motivated. He knows a victory over me launches his career to the top. That's going to make this an interesting fight.

"To win a world title in a fourth division is a big deal to me. My dad [famed trainer Eduardo Garcia] always wanted a three-division world champion, and now I have a chance to give him a fourth title. That's something that really excites me."

Garcia has already won world title belts at featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight.

If Garcia beats Lipinets, he would become just the third boxer in modern history to win world titles at 126, 130, 135 and 140 pounds, joining future Hall of Famers Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

"It would be a great accomplishment to be in the discussion with guys like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez," Garcia said. "That would be a win in itself. But it wasn't on my mind when taking this fight. I just want to keep fighting the best out there. There's still more for me to accomplish until I'm on the same level as Pacquiao and Marquez."

Garcia said he viewed going after a fourth title as the next logical step after returning to the ring in July 2016 following a 2½-year layoff because of a legal fight over his contract with former promoter Top Rank.

"It's been a great return to boxing since my layoff. When I came back, I wanted to move fast and take on big challenges," he said. "That's what we've been doing so far. I want to take on any challenges that people think I can't achieve. I think slowly we're proving to everyone that I'm better than ever and I'm going to keep taking on the kinds of fights that will cement my legacy."

Since his return, Garcia has won three fights: a fifth-round knockout of former featherweight titlist Elio Rojas in his comeback bout, a massive third-round knockout of Dejan Zlaticanin to win a lightweight world title in January, and the wipeout of Broner.

Now Garcia (37-0, 30 KOs), 29, of Moreno Valley, California, is anxious to put on another top-notch performance against Lipinets.

"Like I've said, the challenge for me is that I'll be fighting the bigger man," Garcia said. "On fight night, that advantage he has on me might be enough to make it that much more exciting. It will be interesting to see how well I adapt to the size. I have to make adjustments to overcome those challenges. This should give the fans the excitement that we want to give them.

"I know that I have the possibility to be the biggest star in boxing like a Floyd Mayweather, and I think I'm on track to accomplish that. I don't see a lot of guys in the sport with the résumé of accomplishments that I have. I'm going to continue to take on the best and beat my opponents convincingly."

Lipinets (13-0, 10 KOs), 28, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Beverly Hills, California, outpointed Japan's Akihiro Kondo for a vacant belt on Nov. 4 and will be making his first defense against Garcia.

Lipinets also has big goals and didn't hesitate to accept the fight with Garcia.

"Mikey Garcia is a great champion and I want to be in the position that he's reached in this sport. The only way there is to go through him," Lipinets said. "I'm taking on a great challenge against Mikey Garcia, and many people think I'm not ready. This is the fight that I wanted. I've had many obstacles in my way throughout my career and I've overcome them all. I'm going to overcome Mikey Garcia just like that.

"Every time I have sparred with top fighters, like Terrence Crawford, I have learned more about what I need to improve to get to the next level in this sport. That kind of experience has helped my confidence increase and will help me when I face Mikey Garcia. A lot of things can happen when you move up in weight. Usually people lose some pop. Whatever version of Mikey Garcia shows up, I'll be ready for him."

There will also be another junior welterweight world title on the line in the co-feature, which will match Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs), 31, a Cuban defector fighting out of Las Vegas, and Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KOs), 28, of Belarus, for a vacant belt. The fight is a rematch of Barthelemy's controversial decision win in their world title eliminator on May 20.