By Ryan Burton
LAS VEGAS - At the Pearl at Palms Casino Resort, undefeated Cuban Rances "Kid Blast" Barthelemy (24-0, 13 KOs) won a twelve round unanimous decision over Denis Shafikov (36-2-1, 19 KOs) to capture the vacant IBF lightweight championship. Shafikov was in charge early on, but then Barthelemy took over after the Russian fighter suffered a bad cut on his right eyelid.
The first thing that became immediately apparent was the disparity in size of. Barthelemy at 5'11" towered over the 5'5" Shafikov. The Russian did a better job getting inside in the second round but absorbed a lot of punishment in the process. Barthelemy was content to fight in the pocket instead of using his reach advantage on the outside and potshot.
Shafikov kept coming forward, throwing punches at different angles and using side steps to throw off the heavy betting favorite Barthelemy, who came out more aggressively in the sixth and landed a few uppercuts but couldn't match the work rate of his opponent. The Cuban appeared to finally wake up in the eight round and had his best round of the fight up to that point. The ringside doctor checked out the cut over Shafikov's right eye that had been caused the round before that had began to bleed profusely and let the fight continue.
Shafikov kicked it back in gear in the 9th perhaps sensing that the fight may be stopped early. Rances finally woke up and fought most of the 10th round on the outside and started to potshot and dominate the round and the rest of the bout. Barthelemy stayed on the outside in the 11th and clowned around at the end of the round throwing bolo punches. Barthelemy kept the fight on the outside and cruised to win the final round.
The final tallies were 119-109 and 116-112 twice.
The championship became vacant after champion Mickey Bey vacated the title rather than face mandatory challenger Shafikov. Bey saw action on this undercard, getting victory and possibly targeting the new champion in the coming months.