By Jake Donovan
Argenis Mendez and his team wasted no time in attempting to right a horrible wrong following the chain of events from his – for the moment – official 2nd round knockout loss to Rances Barthelemy last Friday in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
An official appeal has been filed with the International Boxing Federation (IBF), who sanctioned the 130 lb. title fight. Plans are also in motion to have the fight – particularly its ending – reviewed by Minnesota Combative Sports Commission, with both matters being handled by high profile attorney Pat English, whom Mendez has hired on retainer.
The bout served as the first major stateside boxing telecast of 2014, with their ESPN2 Friday Night Fights headliner featuring enough drama and thrills to last quite some time. Barthelemy was dominant from the opening bell, but the knockout sequence came as the result of (at least) two blows landed well after the bell to end the second round of their scheduled 12-round main event.
Barthelemy landed a shot to Mendez’ head just as the bell sounded, but the natural adrenaline of a fighter in action prompted him to follow up with a combination. Referee Pete Podgorski was well out of position to prevent the Cuban from fighting after the bell, and seemingly unaware himself that the round had ended, instead ruling it a knockdown and deeming Mendez unfit to continue.
For the moment, Barthelemy is a newly crowned titlist, unseating Mendez after having reigned for just 10 months. The Cuban’s reign could come to an end much quicker than that, depending on how the legal process plays out.
“Based on conversations that took place today, we’re confident that what took place will result – in accordance with the Unified Rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) – in a No-Decision,” believes Jose Nuñez, Mendez’ longtime manager. “It’s up to the Minnesota commission to review the DVD of the fight and judge for themselves.
“We’ll respect their decision no matter what happens, but we believe they will see for themselves that (Mendez) was knocked out as the result of a foul. Once they rule in our favor, the IBF will have to honor the decision and return ‘Genis’ title back and most likely order a rematch.”
According to the Unified Rules as posted on ABC’s website, the terms surrounding a fight ending in accidental foul reads as follows:
“B. Accidental fouls.
1. If an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout immediately, the bout will result in a NO DECISION if stopped before four (4) completed rounds. Four (4) rounds are complete when the bell rings signifying the end of the fourth round.”
However, the fight would have to be recognized as having ended on a foul in order for the ruling to apply. In order for that end result to become the case in place of the current knockout ruling, it would require the fight and case falling three separate review processes with the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission, a process which – ironically – mirrors that of the IBF.
The first step calls for a grievance to be filed with the commission’s executive director no later than ten (10) calendar days from the time of the incident. That would mean Mendez’ team will need to have the case and all supporting material in the hands of the Executive Director by no later than January 13, 2014.
If the matter remains unresolved, it will then go under review by an appointed Grievance Committee. Should the case still fail to reach a full resolution, it will then go to the commission for a full hearing.
The IBF still has the power to determine if special circumstances exist to warrant an immediate rematch, meaning an appeal with the New Jersey-based sanctioning body could land in Mendez’ favor regardless of what is eventually decided by the presiding commission. However, the sanctioning body does not have the power to overturn a verdict, as it must honor whatever final decision is made in the ring and recognized by the commission.
Should the Minnesota commission fail to find sufficient evidence to overturn the verdict, Mendez could still potentially land an immediate rematch but would have to enter as challenger. The status of both fighters is significant should the fight go to a purse bid, as was the case with this matchup.
The two camps negotiated the ordered fight, with a deal believed to be in place. However, a breakdown in communication resulted a purse bid, which was won by Warriors Boxing, Barthelemy’s promoter. Leon Margules, president of Warriors, was the only one to attend the bid, but reached an agreement with Iron Mike Productions, Mendez’ promoter, to co-promote the event at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Live in attendance for the event was former heavyweight king Mike Tyson, whose ring nickname shapes the promotional company. Tyson joined forces with Acquinity Sports to form Iron Mike Productions last summer. His first full promotion came during the 2013 season finale of Friday Night Fights, which was headlined by Mendez in a disputed 12-round draw with Arash Usmanee.
Tyson’s second go on television produced far worse results, met with his immediate in-ring protest while interviewed in the ring by ESPN2’s Bernardo Osuna. The heavyweight champ is now prepared to take the battle to the local commission, in hopes of reaching a resolution that will satisfy all parties.
“They will have to see that it was a foul and that the knockout can’t stand,” said Tyson through a spokesperson for Iron Mike Productions. “We enjoyed our time in (Minnesota), and would like to come back to do more shows.
“We were assured prior to (last Friday’s show) that the Minnesota commission is made up of honorable people who always do the right thing. They now have their chance to do the right thing here.”
The bout was Barthelemy’s first title fight, after having won a pair of elimination bouts, both of which aired live on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. His first win to land in title contention came exactly 52 weeks prior to his win over Mendez, coming under equally questionable circumstances. A unanimous decision win over Usmanee in 2013’s Friday Night Fights season opener was met with immediate resistance, including an on-air rant from color commentator Teddy Atlas.
Barthelemy raised his public appeal in his follow-up appearance, a second round knockout of Fahslan Sakkreerin last June to secure his title shot.
Mendez was attempting the second defense of his title, the lone successful defense coming with the aforementioned draw versus Usmanee last August. His title reign began with revenge, scoring a 4th round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado last March, avenging a points loss to the Mexican 18 months prior.
Depending on how the appeal process plays out, revenge could once again be on the table in the near future for the Dominican boxer.
“I want my title back,” Mendez simply stated.
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