By Keith Idec
Four months after his first title defense resulted in a controversial majority draw, IBF junior lightweight champion Argenis Mendez feels as though he can’t let his fight against Rances Barthelemy go to the scorecards Friday night.
A determined Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KOs) promised to be more aggressive against Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs) than he was with Arash Usmanee on Aug. 23 and intends to win their scheduled 12-round fight by knockout. The Mendez-Barthelemy bout will be broadcast by ESPN2 as the main event of the first “Friday Night Fights” telecast of the year.
“I definitely learned that when you’re in the ring, you have to give it your all,” Mendez said. “Sometimes, what you and your corner think isn’t what is going through the judges’ minds. Honestly, I don’t know what fight the judges saw [against Usmanee]. There was no way that bout was a draw.
“Unfortunately, that fight wasn’t the first time this has happened to me. I’ve been robbed twice before, once in Denver (versus Jaime Sandoval), and the other time in Mexico (against Juan Carlos Salgado). I knocked both guys down during our fights. Now, I’m more determined to get in there and be more aggressive to make sure there is no doubt that I am the winner. I’m definitely not going to leave it to the judges. I know for sure that I’m going home with my title.”
The 27-year-old Mendez, a Brooklyn resident raised in the Dominican Republic, lost an eight-round split decision to Sandoval in October 2008. He dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to Salgado in September 2011.
Mendez avenged his questionable loss to Mexico’s Salgado (26-3-1, 16 KOs, 1 NC) by knocking out Salgado in the fourth round of their rematch to win the IBF 130-pound crown March 9 in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Barthelemy beat Thailand’s Fahsai Sakkreerin (40-5-1, 22 KOs) by second-round knockout in an IBF elimination match June 21 in Minneapolis to become Mendez’s mandatory challenger. The Cuban defector previously out-pointed Afghanistan’s Usmanee (20-1-1, 10 KOs) in their 12-rounder last Jan. 4 in Miami to become the IBF’s No. 2 contender.
“I really think Usmanee won his fight with Barthelemy,” Mendez said, “and that’s why I gave him the opportunity in August to fight me for the world title. I honestly thought that he was the better fighter.”
Before Barthelemy and Mendez meet in the main event, Caleb Truax (23-1-1, 14 KOs), of nearby Osseo, Minn., and Ossie Duran (28-11-2, 11 KOs), of Paterson, N.J., will open a new “Friday Night Fights” season in a 10-round middleweight match scheduled to start just after 9 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.