By Ben Jacobs
The talent in the lightweight division was evident to see just a few weeks ago in the United Kingdom when Britain’s WBA champion Anthony Crolla stopped Ismael Barroso in seven rounds in what many considered an upset. On Friday June 3, Cuba’s Rances Barthelemy (24-0, 13 KOs) has the chance to further enhance his own reputation as one of the divisions’ best fighters when he defends his IBF world title against former champion, Mickey Bey (22-1-1, 10 KOs).
BoxingScene.com was able to briefly catch up with Barthelemy during his last week of sparring and he confessed to being comfortable with his decision to have moved to Nevada, which he believes has improved his career.
“Training has been excellent here with Ismael Salas,” he said, following a pad session with his fellow Cuban.
“I like the altitude and the conditions here in Las Vegas and that’s why I train there. It really has a good boxing atmosphere, that’s why I came here.
“Mickey Bey is a good boxer, he was a world champion for a reason. I can’t take any credit away from my opponent. He has two hands just like me and he is coming to win. Having that thought in my mind makes me push harder in training.”
While some observers believe that Crolla is now the number one lightweight in the world, others are of the opinion that it could be Barthelemy or his gym mate Jorge Linares, the WBC champion.
“It’s nice to hear that people think I’m one of the best lightweights but I can’t pay attention to that. I am a humble guy and I dedicate myself in the gym.
“I didn’t see the whole Crolla fight, I just saw the highlights of the knockout when he got him with a body shot. It didn’t surprise me too much that he won by knockout. I had seen Barroso just once, in his previous fight, but I can’t tell you too much because I haven’t seen the two of them fight that often.
“Right now I will fight anyone at 135lbs or 140lbs. I want to fight the likes of Terence Crawford and Adrien Broner.”
Before pursing the likes of Crawford and Broner, the talented Cuban fighter must deal with a very motivated Bey - who never lost his IBF title in the ring. He was ordered to face Denis Shafikov, but vacated his title. Barthelemy replaced him, and won a twelve round decision over Shafikov to claim the vacant belt last December at The Palms in Las Vegas. Now Bey wants to reclaim what he strongly believes he still should own.
"Barthelemy won my title, I had to vacate it due to a hand injury, so all he is doing is keeping it warm for me," said Bey. "Training camp is going great. I have been training hard for over a month. I have the best team in the business, with the most knowledgeable trainers. I'm looking forward to the challenge with him being undefeated and a two-time world champion. We both have a lot of skills, so it will make an entertaining fight for sure."
The site for this bout is the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, located in Hollywood, Florida, not far from Miami. The 29-year-old revealed his delight at returning to fight in such an important spot for Cubans based in the United States.
“Everyone knows that Miami is a special place for Cubans, outside of Cuba itself, it is a great place for us be it in boxing or in baseball. Cuban boxing is going through a good phase after a period of inactivity. We’re starting to rediscover our success with boxers like Luis Ortíz and Erislandy Lara.”
Televised coverage of Barthelemy-Bey begins at 9 p.m. ET/PT as unbeaten Puerto Rican prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez (14-0, 10 KOs) takes on hard-hitting Mexican Victor "Pitufo" Proa (28-1-2, 21 KOs) in a 10-round bantamweight affair.
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Kings Promotions, Warriors Boxing, Mayweather Promotions and Panther Promotions, are priced at $130, $80, $60 and $35 and are on sale now. All seats are reserved and available at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.myhrl.com, www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone: 1-800-745-3000. Doors open at 5:30 pm, with the first fight set to begin at 6:30 p.m. *Additional fees may apply.