By Keith Idec
Kyril Relikh refused to be denied again.
Belarus’ Relikh was busier and better throughout his rematch against Rances Barthelemy on Saturday night, and was rewarded with a unanimous decision in San Antonio. Relikh lost a controversial unanimous decision to Barthelemy 9½ months ago, but he won their 12-round, 140-pound rematch on the scorecards of judges Alfredo Polanco (118-109), Cesar Ramos (118-109) and Rafael Ramos (117-110).
Relikh (22-2, 19 KOs) also won the vacant WBA super lightweight title on the Sergey Lipinets-Mikey Garcia undercard at Freeman Coliseum. In avenging his loss to Barthelemy on May 20 in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Relikh also denied the previously unbeaten Barthelemy (26-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC) in his bid to become the first Cuban-born boxer to win a world title in a third weight class.
The 28-year-old Relikh looked much sharper in their second fight. He landed an array of punches throughout the bout, rarely stopped punching and out-worked Barthelemy, who was wary of Relikh’s power and usually fought in short spurts.
According to Showtime’s unofficial punch stats, Relikh landed 249-of-1,237 overall punches, 112 more than Barthelemy (137-of-494). The newly crowned champion connected with more power punches (167-of-637 to 102-of-281) and jabs (82-of-600 to 35-of-213).
Barthelemy won their first fight by unanimous decision, but the wide scoring wasn’t indicative of how hard of a battle that was for the former IBF featherweight and IBF super featherweight champion.
Relikh scored a fifth-round knockdown against Barthelemy in that bout, when Barthelemy used the ropes to hold himself up after Relikh landed a left hook. Barthelemy came back to land a right uppercut to the body that made Relikh take a knee late in the eighth round.
The WBA called for an immediate rematch because Barthelemy won that elimination match by such large margins on all three scorecards May 20 in Oxon Hill, Maryland (117-109, 116-110, 115-111). They fought for the WBA’s 140-pound championship Saturday night because Terence Crawford gave it up when he moved up to the welterweight division last year.
Their rematch wasn’t as competitive as their initial encounter.
For the second time in the fight, Barthelemy belted Relikh with a low blow that caused a brief break in the action, this time with five seconds left in the fight. By then, Barthelemy was way behind
Barthelemy hit Relikh with a left hook to the head late in the 11th round, but it was entirely too little, entirely too late for the former two-division champion.
Barthelemy seemed to hurt Relikh by connecting with a left to his body when there were 50 seconds remaining in the ninth round. Relikh covered up and moved away from Barthelemy, yet managed to throw hard punches at Barthelemy before that round ended.
They continued to fight at distances that favored Relikh during the eighth and ninth rounds. Barthelemy threw combinations during those rounds, but didn’t land anything that seemed to affect Relikh.
Barthelemy landed a low left hand that caused Relikh to double over with 25 seconds to go in the seventh round. Pabon gave Relikh time to recover and deducted a point from Barthelemy, who had been warned twice for low blows in previous rounds.
Earlier in the seventh, Barthelemy did some solid body work with his left hand.
Barthelemy and Relikh wrestled and went crashing into the ropes and to the canvas 20 seconds into the sixth round. The entanglement was similar to what happened when Barthelemy, buzzed by a right hand, tackled Relikh to the canvas 25 seconds into their first fight.
Relikh continued to find a home for uppercuts in the fifth round. Pabon warned Barthelemy for hitting Relikh low in the fifth round as well, his second such warning in the fight to that point.
Barthelemy belted Relikh with a hard left to the body early in the fourth round. Relikh got the better of an exchange with just under 20 seconds to go in the fourth.
Relikh was the busier fighter and the aggressor again during the third round.
Barthelemy slipped to the canvas after drilling Relikh with a right hand early in the third round.
With Barthelemy backed against the ropes, Relikh clipped Barthelemy with an overhand right to the side of his head and a left hook as part of a combination. Barthelemy was warned by Pabon for landing a low blow later in the second round.
Relikh caught Barthelemy with a quick left hook about 30 seconds into the second round.
Neither Barthelemy nor Relikh established much of an advantage in the first round. Both boxers opened up during an exchange late in the first round, as each fighter attempted to steal it.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.