by Cliff Rold
MGM National Harbor in Maryland - It was hard hitting throughout, with both men on the deck, and in the end the crowd was booing. That didn’t make the crowd right.
Cuban 30-year old former 130 and 135 lb. titlist Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KO), 139 ½, of Las Vegas, Nevada, appeared to win most of the rounds en route to a unanimous decision over 27-year old Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KO), 139 ½, of Belarus. The referee was Kenny Chevalier.
Relikh looked on the verge of a career best win halfway through the fight. A knockdown in round five had Barthelemy reeling but the former titlist made the bell. He returned the knockdown favor in the eighth with a vicious body shot that Relikh tried to play off as low. Another shot did stray low in the ninth and Relikh took ample time to recover. Neither came close to stopping the other again, even as they continued to land blasting, hard shots.
In the end, Barthelemy simply landed more. The unanimous scores came in at 116-110, 115-111, and 117-109. Barthelemy earns a mandatory position with the WBA. Julius Indongo is the current WBA, IBO and IBF titlist.
A Cuban amateur national champion, 30-year-old Barthelemy turned pro in 2009. Born in Cuba but now fighting out of Las Vegas, Nev. he won a super featherweight world title in July 2014 by defeating Argenis Mendez in impressive fashion, and followed that up with a second round TKO victory over Angino Perez.
After dominating former champion Antonio DeMarco in June, he won a world title in a second division when he impressively defeated Denis Shafikov in December. Most recently, Barthelemy made the lone defense of his lightweight belt with a decision over former champion Mickey Bey last June.
Fighting out of Minsk, Belarus, Relikh returned to the ring after challenging the former champion Burns for the WBA title in October 2016.
The 27-year-old was undefeated after turning pro in 2011 leading up to his world title shot. Relikh owns wins over veteran contenders Christian Ariel Lope, Joaquim Carneiro and Lazaro Santos de Jesus.