By Jake Donovan
Rances Barthelemy earned a mandatory title shot against 130 lb. titlist Argenis Mendez with a one-punch body-shot knockout of Fahsai Sakkreerin in their ESPN2-televised main event Friday evening in Minnesota.
However, it won’t be the next bout in queue for Mendez, who is penciled in for an optional title defense on August 23.
In an ironic twist, Mendez’ opponent will be Arash Usmanee, who suffered a controversial split decision loss to Barthelemy on ESPN2 earlier this year. .
“My goal is to fight them both before the end of the year,” said Mendez (21-2, 11KO), who became champ after an emphatic 4th round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado in their rematch this past March. Should he get his wish, that will give Mendez three fights on the year, his first time since 2008 that he will have been able to enjoy such activity.
The bout with Usmanee - tentatively scheduled for the moment - marks his first title defense. Despite the title eliminator status that came with Barthelemy’s knockout win on Friday, Mendez isn’t required to fulfill his mandatory obligation until December 9. His own title win was the last satisfied mandatory title fight, which normally cycles every nine months.
With enough time in between, Mendez is afforded the opportunity to squeeze in what serves for his career as a rare stay busy fight.
Usmanee (20-1, 10KO) hasn’t fought since the controversial loss to Barthelemy in January. Most viewers had the Canada-based Afghani boxer winning with room to spare, only for the unanimous decision against him to draw a round of boos and an epic rant from ESPN2 analyst Teddy Atlas.
It was a strong enough effort to convince Mendez to grant him a title opportunity. It was also enough to where he doesn’t feel the need to look down the road to his eventual mandatory.
“Barthelemy is on my radar only because he’s now my mandatory. But to be honest, he doesn’t really impress me,” Mendez insists. “He’s undefeated and did what he had to do to get to the number one ranking. He’ll get his turn, but right now all I’m thinking about is August 23 and (Usmanee).”
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