By Jake Donovan
News of the possibility of Argenis Mendez vacating his super featherweight title rather than facing Rances Barthelemy in a rematch came as… well, news to Mendez and his camp. In fact, reading of such a suggestion had his handlers in a foul mood.
“Everything they’re saying is bull****,” insists Jose Nuñez, Mendez’ manager, channeling his inner Vincent LaGuardia Gambini after reading the unfounded rumors. “They filed a protest with the IBF (International Boxing Federation), trying to get a 50/50 split for the rematch. We’ve appealed it, so now they’re out looking for any publicity they can get.”
Nuñez refers to a motion filed by Barthelemy (19-0-0-1ND, 12KO), through promoter Leon Margules, to have the purse split modified for their pending rematch. The two were ordered to fight again, following the controversial outcome of their January 3 title fight in Minneapolis, which served as the main event for the 2014 season premiere of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights.
Barthelemy was originally awarded a 2nd round knockout and the IBF super featherweight title, though the fight-ending blow had come after the bell to end the second round. Mendez’ camp appealed the outcome to the Minnesota Combat Sports Commission, who after further review voted unanimously to change the official outcome to a No-Decision.
The verdict was significant in that the title was returned to Mendez (21-2-1-1ND, 12KO), with Barthelemy reinserted as his mandatory challenger. Had the original decision been upheld, Barthelemy would score the favorable end of a 75/25 split in event that a pending rematch goes to purse bid.
The IBF ordered a rematch on January 31, issuing a 30-day negotiations period between camps. If the two sides are unable to come to terms, a purse bid hearing will take place on Monday, March 3 at the IBF’s headquarters in New Jersey.
Because of the No-Decision ruling, the unbeaten Cuban is in the exact same position as was the case prior to their fight in January, in which Warriors Boxing won the original purse bid to promote the fight. A deal was reached for the venture to serve as a co-promotion with Iron Mike Productions, though it appears as if the two sides will not come to terms prior to the March 3 deadline.
The Barthelemy camp is looking for all assurances to protect their fighter and maximize his income. A protest was filed with the IBF on February 4, with Margules requesting an even purse split in lieu of the traditional 75/25 arrangement between champion and mandatory challenger.
Warrior’s Boxing, through Margules, also a practicing attorney, cite a clause in the IBF’s championship policy that allows the sanctioning body to rule if there exists grounds to make an exception to the traditional 75/25 split between champion and challenger.
“Notwithstanding the purse bid percentages described herein, if the circumstances so warrant, the Championships Chairman or the President (of the IBF) may make a recommendation to the Board of Directors that a different purse bid split be employed,” reads rule 10(E) of the IBF’s championships policy. “Any variation in the purse bid percentages from those set forth in this rule must be approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors.”
Alerted by the IBF of the following, Mendez once again retained the services of attorney Patrick English, who was hired to handle the Dominican’s appeal with the Minnesota commission in January. A letter of opposition was filed on behalf of Mendez on February 6, outlining in detail the absurdity behind Barthelemy’s claims of entitlement of anything larger than a mandatory 75/25 purse split.
“Here there are no circumstances which would warrant a change,” English stated in the appeal, of which a copy has been obtained by Boxingscene.com. “Barthelemy fouled Mendez, a foul which was initially missed by the referee. Frankly, Barthelemy was lucky he was not disqualified at the time.”
English cites as a supporting example the first fight between Roy Jones and Montell Griffin, which took place in Atlantic City in March ’97. Jones was rallying after given the toughest challenge of his career to that point, scoring enough to force Griffin to take a knee in round nine. Referee Tony Perez was massively slow getting into proper position to rule a knockdown, prompting Jones to ‘defend himself at all times,’ scoring two more clean punches on a surrendered and defenseless Griffin.
Perez initially issued a full ten count and declared Jones a knockout winner, only for then New Jersey State Athletic Commissioner Larry Hazzard to immediately overrule the verdict to a disqualification win for Griffin.
The same logic applied to Barthelemy-Mendez, except that the process took much longer and required an extensive review by the Minnesota commission. Had the same scenario applied on fight night, Barthelemy would have been ruled a loser by disqualification, even though referee Peter Podgorski was at fault for being out of position at the time, missing the fight-ending unintentional foul
“Mr. Barthelemy may have escaped that fate simply because the referee was out of position,” English continues. “In any case, the IBF treated Barthelemy more than fairly by mandating a rematch.”
Another example cited by Mendez’ legal team is the recent request made by super middleweight contender George Groves to secure a more favorable split in an ordered rematch with defending champion Carl Froch. The two have been ordered to fight again due to the strong suggestion that their title fight last November resulted in a premature stoppage.
Groves was winning the fight handily, before Froch – who was dropped hard in the opening round – rallied in round nine. The defending champion was aggressive but necessarily scoring to the point of having the challenger in serious trouble. Troubled referee Howard John Foster felt different, abruptly stopping the contest in which Groves was leading on two of the three cards at that point.
While no grounds – or precedence – exist to overrule the stoppage in favor of Froch, the IBF conceded that Groves was denied the opportunity to fight his way out of trouble, and as such ordered a rematch. However, because Groves is no longer the mandatory challenger to the title, he is not entitled to a 75/25 split, but rather no greater than the lesser end of an 85/15 split should the fight go to purse bid.
“Mr. Groves was wronged by an improper stoppage, but that did not entitle him to a different split,” English noted in the appeal, in comparing the Brit’s situation to that of Barthelemy. “Here Mr. Barthelemy committed a foul; he was not wronged. He has been placed in exactly the same (mandatory challenger) position he was in prior to engaging in the bout with Mr. Mendez.
“There is no equity in placing him in a better position by changing the splits.”
From there, the mudslinging began, complete with recent suggestion by Barthelemy and his camp that Mendez is looking to avoid a rematch. Comments alluding to those claims were picked up by newspapers in the challenger’s adopted hometown of Miami, insisting that Mendez will vacate the title and move up in weight.
The suggestion of avoiding a rematch isn’t what has rubbed Mendez and his camp the wrong way, as such claims are easy to dispute. What bothers the reinstated champ is the foundation from which those rumors were formed.
“They began that talk after believing rumors (repeated on air by ESPN2 color commentator Teddy Atlas) that Mendez was way overweight heading into Fight Week for their fight,” Nuñez suggests. “Mendez at no point struggled to make weight, nor do they have any proof of that, so that’s how we know they’re just making up stories.
“When the IBF rules in our favor – and I’m confident that will be the case – they will have to accept 25% of the total purse bid, and that’s what’s (upsetting) them. Leon ranted about how his fighter was being screwed financially by the ruling from the Minnesota commission, so now they making up (stuff) about my fighter just to get publicity and make us look like the bad guy.”
Suffice to say, negotiations haven’t gone very well in securing the rematch. So much, that Mendez’ team offers a solution.
“Let’s just skip the (nonsense) and go straight to a purse bid,” Nuñez insists. “We’re wasting all this time and money with lawyers and all that, so I’ve already asked Garry Jonas and Iron Mike Productions (Mendez’ promoter) to put in a request for an immediate purse bid. “This way, we can make the rematch happen as soon as possible.
“Anyone claiming we don’t want the rematch and making up (stuff) about my fighter needs to get slapped in the face. Unless they hear that from me or from Genis, it’s just a bunch of bull**** being made up by people (who are) too sore over what they’re entitled to.”
If anything, Mendez’ fighting history suggests a rematch would be welcomed with open arms. His title reign began nearly a year ago, scoring an emphatic 4th round knockout of Juan Carlos Salgado to avenge a defeat on the road in Mexico 18 months prior.
Setting up the title shot was a sound points win over Martin Honorio in July ’12, scoring a far more convincing win than was the case two years prior when he barely escaped with a majority decision to line up his first title fight with Salgado.
The belief here is that a second look at Barthelemy will produce far more favorable results than what took place in July.
“Mendez has proven his ability to adapt to any situation,” Nuñez states. “Barthelemy had his chance, but couldn’t get the job done within the rules of the sport. He’ll see the champion at his best the next time they fight, and realize he blew his best shot at winning a title.
“After that, we can see about moving up in weight or if fighting the other top fighters at 130 is the best opportunity. But until we get this guy again, nothing else is on Genis’ mind other than setting the record straight in the ring.”
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: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Argenis Mendez , Rances Barthelemy , Mendez-Barthelemy , Mendez vs Barthelemy