By Jake Donovan
Rances Barthelemy took a headbutt to his temple late in round two, only to learn upon rising to his feet that the sequence was ruled a knockdown.
It was the second worst ruling made against him but didn't prevent the unbeaten Cuban from retaining his lightweight title. Barthelemy had to settle for a split decision win over Mickey Bey in a Spike-TV main event, which aired live Friday evening from Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Barthelemy won by scores of 117-110 and 116-111, overruling the ridiculous card turned in by disgraced judge Hilton Whitaker III, who somehow had Bey winning 117-110.
Much of the buildup leading to the bout centered around the fact that Bey came in as the former title claimant although he never lost the belt in the ring. Rather, the Ohio-bred boxer was stripped of his crown last summer for failure to defend versus mandatory challenger Denis Shafikov, whom Barthelemy outpointed in their vacant title fight last December, which also aired on Spike TV.
Bey insisted that his foe was simply keeping the belt warm for him, but fought much of the night as if he was entitled to leave with the crown without having to put in the work. Barthelemy landed the more telling blows all evening, dictated the pace and repeatedly made Bey miss.
He did as much late in round two, with Bey overshooting considerably with a right hand that sailed past the head of the defending champ. Their heads collided, causing Barthelemy to fall to the canvas. Bey threw his arms in the air as if he just won a marathon, selling the idea of a knockdown to indecisive referee Sam Burgos, who was late on the call but picked up the count from the official timekeeper.
Barthelemy was well in control to that point, but was suddenly down on the scorecards due to the sequence resulting in a 10-8 round for Bey. He made up for lost ground in the ensuing frames, although Bey managed to land his fair share of right hands in spots.
Apparently it was enough to sell the thought of a winning performance to judge Whitaker, infamously known for joining judge Donald Givens in awarding Paul Williams an absurd 12-round majority decision win over Erislandy Lara in what is often referred to as one of the most disgraceful scoring outcomes of the 21st Century.
The July '11 scoring scandal resulted in all three judges (including Al Bennett, who had the bout 114-114) receiving a suspension with their respective returns contingent upon completing additional training. It apparently didn't take with Whitaker, whose name is now attached to a pair of horrific scorecards going against Cuban boxers who deserved to win with room to spare.
Nevertheless, Barthelemy has overcome far worse in life - reportedly attempting nearly 40 times to break free from his native Cuba before finally succeeding in 2007. His defection to Miami meant skipping out on a chance to fight in the 2008 Olympics, but has carved out a heck of a career for himself since turning pro in 2009.
The undefeated lightweight titlist - who turns 30 later this month - makes his first successful defense as he improves to 25-0 (13KOs). The night marks the fifth time in his past six starts in which he has been forced to go 12 rounds, but leaves the ring with the belt.
As a result, Bey falls to 22-2-1 (10KOs). The loss disrupts a four-fight win streak, including his disputed title win over Miguel Vazquez in their Sept. '13 clash. He never managed a single defense of the bout, but since returned with a rust-shaking win over previously unbeaten Naim Nelson last December - on the undercard of Barthelemy's win over Shafikov to claim the belt.
Next up for Barthelemy will be a mandatory title defense versus unbeaten Richard Commey, who was seated ringside. Before then, however, he will head to the Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. on Monday to attempt to secure a travel visa to return home to Cuba to visit the family he had to leave behind in pursuit of a better life.
"It will feel so good to go home (to Cuba) as a world champion and be able to hug my family," Barthelemy told Spike TV's Jimmy Smith at fight's end.
Caleb Plant preserved his unbeaten record with a 4th round knockout of Colombia's Carlos Galvan in their Spike TV-televised swing bout.
A single left "hookercut" to the body was enough to put Galvan (12-5-1) down and out.
Plant (13-0, 10KOs) boxed in the early rounds, feeling out aggressive (albeit ineffective) opponent while looking for the right opportunity to explode with his power shots. It appeared as if he would have to settle for his third decision win within his past four fights until creating his opening, a wicked left hand shot - half-hook, half-uppercut - found its way to Galvan's solar plexus, putting him on all fours where he remained as the referee issued the full ten count.
The win was the second consecutive knockout for Plant, a 2012 U.S. Olympic alternate and budding middleweight prospect from Ashland City, Tenn., roughly 30 minutes from Nashville.
Emmanuel 'Manny' Rodriguez enjoyed his welcome to the bantamweight radar, soundly outpointing Alberto Guevara over 10 rounds in the Spike TV-televised co-feature attraction.
Scores were 100-90 (twice) and 99-91.
The bout was lacking in sustained action, but still an impressive showing for Rodriguez (15-0, 10KOs). The unbeaten prospect from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico (also home to super featherweight titlist Roman 'Rocky' Martinez and this writer's beloved wife, Aida-Luz Negron) established his dominance early, but settled into a steady boxing routine once he sensed that Guevara was going to hang around for a while.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2