By Jake Donovan
Iron Mike Productions (IMP) won the right to promote the ordered 130 lb. title fight rematch between Argenis Mendez and Rances Barthelemy.
The Florida-based promotional company earned the honor during a purse bid hearing held Tuesday afternoon at the International Boxing Federation (IBF) headquarters in New Jersey, with a winning bid of $261,000. The amount barely edged out Warriors Promotion, Barthelemy's promoter who submitted $251,000 in efforts to secure the rights to the rematch.
Both companies served as co-promoters for the first fight this past January in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The rematch is due to take place in June, with Showtime likely to televise.
“We came in with every intention of securing the rights to promote this championship rematch,” IMP COO Azim Spicer said, upon receiving confirmation of the winning bid.
The first fight took place in January to kick off the 2014 boxing season, also presenting the year with its first major controversy. Barthelemy was in control for the brief affair for the ESPN2 Friday Night Fights headliner, dropping Mendez hard in round two – once legally and the other coming after the bell to end the second round. Because referee Peter Podgorski was out of position and also unaware the round had ended, Barthelemy was ruled a knockout winner and new champion.
However, the official verdict was overturned later in the month upon a successful protest filed by Mendez’ legal team. The Minnesota Combative Sports Commission declared the fight a No-Decision due to the final the outcome of the bout influenced by an unintentional foul.
The decision cost Barthelemy more than the title, but his share of Tuesday’s winning purse bid. The defending champion is entitled to the favorable end of a 75%-25% split of the total purse. Because Barthelemy has been returned to contender status, he will get the lesser amount as the challenger. His team filed an appeal to the IBF requesting a more favorable split given the unique circumstances surrounding their fight, but was rejected by the sanctioning body
Mendez (21-2-1-1ND, 12KO) will make the third defense of his title, though his last official win came on the night in which he first became a champion. The Dominican boxer won the belt with a stirring 4th round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado last March, avenging a narrow points loss in their Sept. ’11 vacant title fight.
Two defenses have followed, both resulting in controversial outcomes. Five months prior the aforementioned debacle with Barthelemy, Mendez was held to a disputed 12-round draw versus Arash Usmanee last August, in what served as the 2013 season finale of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights and also the first event promoted by Iron Mike Productions, which had fully formed last June after joining forces with Acquinity Sports, Mendez’ previous promoter.
“It hasn’t been easy getting Argenis to the title, or even holding on to it,” admits Jose Nuñez, Mendez’ manager who represented IMP during Tuesday’s purse bid hearing. “But we’ve already began preparing for the rematch months ago. Iron Mike Productions did its part by winning the bid for the rematch; the rest is up to our team to prove we are the better fighter and the true champion.”
Barthelemy (19-0-0-1ND, 12KO) initially earned the right to challenge for the title with a pair of wins in 2013. The unbeaten Cuban scored a controversial decision win over Usmanee last January, but was far more convincing in a 2nd round knockout of Fahsai Sakkreerin last June to become the mandatory challenger.
From the moment the outcome of their fight in January was overturned, Barthelemy sought any additional leverage to carry into the rematch. He hit paydirt when signing with boxing powerbroker Al Haymon earlier this year, which helped bring SHOWTIME into the picture given the adviser’s cozy relationship with the network.
Iron Mike Productions makes its promotional debut with Showtime this coming Friday, serving as the lead promoter for a Shobox tripleheader in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
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. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox