By Jake Donovan
Six months after their controversial first fight to kick off the 2014 boxing season, “Judgment Day” has finally arrived for Argenis Mendez and Rances Barthelemy. The two collide in a title fight rematch Thursday evening, with Fox Sports 1 to televise the action live from the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.
Mendez attempts the third defense of his 130 lb. title, without having won a single fight since claiming the belt more than a year ago. Barthelemy looks to claim the title in his second try, without having lost.
Make sense? This is boxing, so of course it does.
Barthelemy (20-0-1, 13KOs) was hailed as a newly crowned champ for approximately four weeks in the wake of what was officially ruled as a 2 nd round knockout of Mendez in their ESPN2-televised bout this past January in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The action was one way for the six minutes it lasted, with Barthelemy in control and even flooring the Dominican boxer in round two.
Unfortunately for the unbeaten challenger, the fight-ending sequence – a two-punch combination on a spent and defenseless Mendez – came just after the bell had sounded to end round two. Referee Peter Podgorski ruled a second official knockdown scored, deeming Mendez unfit to continue and hailing Barthelemy as a knockout winner.
However, the unbeaten Cuban was forced to give back the title when the Minnesota boxing commission overturned the verdict later that month upon a successful appeal filed by Mendez’ legal team. Barthelemy has fought long and hard in the months that followed for everything from reinstatement as champion to a more favorable purse split.
His team lost every legal battle every step of the way, but the good news is that Barthelemy gets to return to the one place where he briefly proved his superiority – the ring.
As for Mendez (21-2-1, 11KOs), the jury is out on whether or not he still belongs at 130 lb., and if the six minutes of action in the first fight was a fluke.
Will Mendez prove he’s still a force in the 130 lb. division? Will Barthelemy prove that the first fight was no fluke, this time performing his best work within the time limit?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes tonight’s title fight action in South Florida goes down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: ARGENIS MENDEZ vs. RANCES BARTHELEMY
Anson Wainwright (Barthelemy TKO9): "The rematch takes place because of the odd nature of the first fight ending. That said Barthelemy looked in control and on the verge of knocking out Mendez. I can't see past that and feel it will take a little longer but buoyed with the knowledge he can hurt Mendez i expect Barthelemy to catch up with Mendez who will fight within himself and stop the Dominican Republic champion in around nine rounds.”
Ryan Burton (Barthelemy mid-rounds TKO): Rances was dominating their first encounter prior to hitting Mendez after the bell. I think the second fight will be similar to the first and that the Cuban stops him in 6 or 7 rounds.”
Jake Donovan (Wimps Out, No Pick): "Even in arguing that he deserved better than a draw versus Arash Usmanee and that the first fight with Barthelemy was rightfully overturned, Mendez hasn’t looked like a world beater since destroying Juan Carlos Salgado in their rematch more than a year ago. Several factors went into his conditioning for the Barthelemy fight. Perhaps the past few months with Angel Heredia will make a difference. Or maybe Barthelemy is just that good and it’s truly his time.”
Lyle Fitzsimmons (Barthelemy TKO8): “Mendez was able to keep his title thanks to video replay, but what the legal six minutes showed is that Barthelemy had things all his way. Unless than changes, he’ll repeat.”
David P. Greisman (Barthelemy KO): Yes, the end to their first fight came on an illegal blow after the bell. The end was coming anyway, and the reasons for that will be just as apparent in this rematch. I don't think Mendez will have improved enough to top Barthelemy, who wants the belt he would've had after the first fight if not for his throwing punches at the wrong time. The fight lasts a little longer, ends the same way."
Cliff Rold (Barthelemy KO): Mendez is talented when he's on but it's hard to ignore the first clash. Barthelemy finishes fair this time.”
Reynaldo Sanchez (Barthelemy late KO): "I think Barthelemy has the power and physical advantages to defeat Mendez one more time. The psychological aspect will be the key. If Méndez not arrive on Thursday at the 100% of confidence, the result will be the same as the first fight. Perhaps the battle does not end this time, as early as in January in Minnesota; however, I feel that Argenis cannot stop the attacks of the Cuban fighter after the sixth round.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox