By Jake Donovan
Rances Barthelemy took the necessary steps towards attempting to remove some of the bad taste left over from his controversial points win over Arash Usmanee earlier this year. The unbeaten Cuban prospect left no doubt in his most recent performance, a scintillating 2nd round knockout of Thailand’s Fahsai Sakkreerin last Friday in Minneapolis.
Both wins took place on ESPN2 Friday Nights, each serving as separate eliminators to earn Barthelemy a mandatory title shot at 130 lb. titlist Argenis Mendez. The win came with a catch, however: mandatory doesn’t mean immediate, with Mendez afforded time for an optional defense.
That defense is tentatively scheduled to come against Usmanee, news that didn’t sit will well with the highest ranked alphabet challenger.
“Why wait for your mandatory to get it on? Let’s do this now!” said Barthelemy to Mendez in a recent statement sent by co-promoter Warriors Boxing. “Instead of fighting a guy I beat, come take care of business with your top challenger.”
His promoter echoed such sentiments.
“My guy deserves the fight,” insists Leon Margules. “Why defend against a guy who lost his last fight? Jump right in and let’s see what you’ve got. Given the ethnic rivalry aspect (Mendez is from Dominican Republic, Barthelemy from Cuba), it’s a bigger and more lucrative fight to face my guy. It’s good business and good for boxing.”
Mendez’ handlers have every intention of making that fight… when the time is right.
“Argenis is the best 130 lb. fighter in the world,” insists Henry Rivalta, Acquinity Sports Vice President. “I think Rances is a great fighter but he will be outclassed here. He looked better on Friday than the last time he fought. They should get back to the gym and keep working hard.”
It’s not uncommon for the losing fighter of a particular fight to land a prime assignment ahead of his in-ring conqueror. It doesn’t always sit well with the boxing public, but given the widely disputed scoring that took place in Barthelemy’s win over Usmanee, there doesn’t seem to be much debate over which order Mendez winds up facing them.
As far as the champion and his team are concerned, the guy slated to get next is the one who was the first to impress them.
“We are fighting the guy who won their fight. Arash Usmanee got a raw deal in that fight,” Rivalta says of the Barthelemy-Usmanee fight. The amount of support in favor of Usmanee included an epic rant from ESPN2 color commentator Teddy Atlas on the ills of ringside officiating that have long plagued the sport.
It took five months for Barthelemy to redeem himself in the court of public opinion. A little more patience is asked in obtaining what will be by far the biggest opportunity of his career.
“There will be time to fight Rances Barthelemy,” Rivalta promises. “It can’t come soon enough for Mendez. When the fight comes, mark my words, Mendez is going to spank Barthelemy.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.