MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Rances Barthelemy has begun his 2014 much like he started his 2013 — embroiled in a highly controversial fight. There is one major difference from last year — he can now call himself the IBF super featherweight champion, courtesy of a second round KO over Argenis Mendez last night at the Target Center.
While both are solid punchers, the taller (5’11) Barthelemy maximized his physical advantages from the opening round, setting traps by making Mendez lead and stinging him early with a short left hook. Barthelemy spent most of the round boxing off the backfoot and keeping his foe controlled with a strong left jab.
Mendez stepped up his aggression in the second, looking to land his overhand right and work the body. Barthelemy stayed on the backfoot, but at times obliged the inside fighting where he looked to be testing Mendez’s reflexes rather than seeking a damaging blow. He finally found the range he was looking for in the closing 30 seconds and staggered Mendez with an inside left uppercut through the guard. Barthelemy added a cluster of power shots punctuated by another left hook that sent Mendez toppling to the seat of his pants.
Mendez beat the count, but was met with a flurry of finishing shots. The bell rung to end the round, but Barthelemy continued punching, landing two more heavy shots. The final blow, another smashing left hook around the guard, splayed Mendez on the canvas.
Referee Pete Podgorski opted to count out Mendez, essentially awarding Barthelemy the title on illegal shots.
A SUBDUED TEDDY: Normally, you’d think Teddy Atlas would be primed to rant after a verdict like this. Instead, Atlas dismissed much of the controversy with a shrug, stating Barthelemy was in complete control and was on his way to victory anyway. That’s a dubious stance from a man who knows just one punch can completely turn a fight around. Mendez was robbed of that opportunity and suffered an undeserved damaging KO to boot.
NOT BARTHELEMY’S FAULT: Unlike Adrien Broner’s clear after the bell cheapshot on Marcos Maidana last month, you can see that Barthelemy was not intentionally trying to foul Mendez. Barthelemy was a fighter in finishing mode and in the middle of a combination. It’s the referee’s job to jump in right at the bell, especially when one fighter is in survival mode. As you can see, Podgorski was way out of position.
Ironically, it was a controversial decision win for Barthelemy over Arash Usmanee last January in a IBF title eliminator that got him last night’s title shot.
PROTEST ON THE WAY: Mendez’s team (Iron Mike Productions) made it known that they will appeal the verdict. What’s more likely to happen than this decision being reversed is Mendez being offered an immediate rematch. With how badly Barthelemy was dominating him, it’s not given Mendez will want jump back in there so quickly.
DURAN AND TRUAX BATTLE TO A DRAW: 36-year-old Ossie Duran showed he still has some gas in the tank by battling to a draw with Top 20 contender Caleb Truax. Most observers scored the fight for Duran, who came forward the entire fight and landed the harder blows. Truax couldn’t hurt Duran enough to take backward step, so he relied on activity to keep the bout close. Scores were unanimous across the board, 95-95. If nothing else, this fight shows how much of a fast one Andre Ward was attempting in trying to get HBO to approve a Truax bout last year.