by Cliff Rold
30-year old Afghan Arash Usmanee (20-1, 10 KO) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada did more than enough to take the undefeated mark and sanctioning body rating of 26-year old Cuban Rances Barthelemy (18-0, 11 KO) of Miami, Florida, on Friday night at the Magic City Casino in Miami, Florida. The judges decided otherwise, giving Barthelemy unanimous decision after twelve rounds and giving fight fans a reminder that while it may be a new year, it’s still the same old sport.
The referee was Max Parker.
The longer Barthelemy kept his distance for much of the first, Usmanee trying to get close and land something hard. In the final minute, Usmanee ate a hard, stunning jab but evaded enough of a series of wild follow-up shots to avoid any real damage. The game Usmanee, clearly over his head technically, ate some nasty lefts and downhill rights, kept trying in the second, throwing from any angle he could come up with.
Usmanee made a slight adjustment in the third, backing up and letting Barthelemy come forward before opening up. It gave him his best success to then and might have been enough to snare the frame. He was doing well again in the fourth but Barthelemy closed stronger, a whipping left hook landing flush. A clash of heads broke the action for a moment before the bell; no cut resulted.
Struggling with the awkward rhythm of his foe, Barthelemy took the worst of it in rounds five and six. Usmanee’s output picked up, as did his accuracy, and he wisely went to the body. Late in the latter round, Barthelemy landed a nice shot while Usmanee was near the ropes but Usmanee came back downstairs and landed a clean right over the top just before the bell.
Both men let their hands go in the seventh. Usmanee’s hands were doing more damage. The eighth saw more of the same, Barthelemy sustaining more offense through the whole of the round but again being clubbed by the efficiently timed shots of Usmanee. Both rounds could have been close, but the Afghan seemed the man ahead.
The momentum started to shift again in the ninth, Barthelemy beginning to find his range again. In the tenth, a clash of heads drew blood between the eyes of Usmanee and some heavy shots from Barthelemy snapped the head back for the judges to see it. Both men postured and played to the crowd, their grueling fight something both were enjoying.
Flush with confidence and fighting with renewed vigor, Barthelemy moved and let Usmanee walk into shots in the eleventh. Could Usmanee be letting the fight slip away?
He fought like he thought he might be in the final round. For three minutes, it was an all out assault. Barthelemy was hurt more than once by right hands, his legs weakened but will strong. The Cuban would not fall. In the closing seconds, he even fired back a right and willingly let loose in a final exchange. Both men were still throwing as the bell sounded on an outstanding battle.
The only thing that could sully the memory of twelve rounds of honorable battle came minutes after the final bell. At 115-113 and 116-112 twice, Barthelemy took the decision in a moment both predictable and unfortunate. While there were some close rounds, there were hardly eight that could be tallied for the alleged victor.
Barthelemy came into the bout rated #6 by the IBF at 130 lbs. His win may move him forward in the ratings and the shame of the outcome is it besmirches what was a gutsy effort. Usmanee can hope he did enough to earn a return to television sooner than later. He deserved even more.
23-year old 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian Jonathan Gonzalez (16-0-1, 13 KO), 152 ¾, went the distance for the fourth time in a row but picked up the win with a majority decision over 32-year old veteran Derek Ennis (23-4-1, 13 KO), 161, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ennis missed the contracted weight of 154 lbs. but the fight went on and weight appeared little issue.
The early rounds were methodical, Ennis throwing only in rare spots, Gonzalez plodding forward. Action heated a bit in the fourth and picked up considerably in the fifth. With Ennis against the ropes, both men played a game of short offense, digging with hooks to the head and body. Gonzalez blocked and landed more, but Ennis was giving it a real go.
The action level of round five dropped as the fight moved back to mid-ring in the next three rounds. Tactically, it was working for Ennis as Gonzalez moved backward and Ennis was landing eye catching single shots.
Gonzalez went to work in the ninth, his hands moving steadily and Ennis rarely punching back. Some jarring left hands landed clean, but Ennis took them well. Gonzalez stayed a step ahead in the final round, Ennis coming on a bit late but not enough to demand the round.
It was enough to keep an undefeated mark intact. The first score came in at an even 95-95 but Gonzalez was given fair enough scores at 98-92 and 97-93 to take the win in ten.
The 2013 season of Friday Night Fights kicked off with a clash of undefeated Jr. Featherweights. 19-year old Cuban Hairon Socarras (6-0-1, 4 KO), 122, of Miami, Florida, came through with a crackling finish to topple 26-year old Josh Bowles (6-1, 1 KO), 121 ¾, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. After being stunned in the second and rocked again in the third, Bowles made the mistake of staying too close to his man. Socarras made him pay with a vicious right hand, Bowles sent to his back, the finish called at 2:11 of round three.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Warriors Boxing Promotions and Bad Dog Productions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]