Every fighter has hurdles he'll have to clear in his career to keep progressing up the ladder. Sometimes, you have to get a running start. Rances Barthelemy thought he got the job done in his first shot at a championship. Turns out second time’s a charm in his Greatest Hits.
3 vs. Hylon Williams Jr., February 3, 2012, at Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas
Two guys get into the ring with undefeated records. One a touted prospect with a sterling amateur résumé, the other a relative unknown out of Cuba. One got the win that night, a near shutout on the judges’ cards. The other has only had one bout since then. You can probably guess which is which.
“That was really important because nobody knew who I was at the time,” Barthelemy said. “I was just another Cuban fighter. But everyone knew Williams. He won the Golden Gloves. He was [an alternate] for the Olympics. That was the challenge for me. I really wanted to prove myself. Once I beat him comfortably, that put me up to the next level in my career.”
2 vs. Argenis Mendez, January 3, 2014, at Target Center in Minneapolis
When Barthelemy got his first world title shot, he didn’t hesitate to make the most of it. He tore into Mendez with aplomb, knocking the Dominican to the canvas in the second round, and appearing to finish the job with a vicious combo right at the bell. Maybe a little too close to the bell, it turns out.
“I was in the middle of a combination right when the bell rang,” Barthelemy said. “One of the shots came right after the bell, and that’s the one that knocked him down. That’s what they appealed with. They said it was technically after the bell, even though the shots were in motion already. It’s hard to stop yourself when you’re already in motion.”
Referee Telis Assimenios initially counted Mendez out, but the replay appeared to confirm the final shot came after the bell had been rung a second time. Mendez’s appeal was upheld, and the fight was ruled a no decision.
1 vs. Argenis Mendez, July 10, 2014, at American Airlines Arena in Miami
So it was back to the drawing board, six months later. This time, Barthelemy didn’t get a knockout—or even a knockdown—but he did manage to lock up a comfortable 115-111 decision on all three judges’ scorecards despite losing two points for low blows in the late rounds.
It didn’t hurt that he’d seen what Mendez had to offer in those two rounds in January, and came up with a solid game plan to exploit Mendez.
“It just proved I didn’t have to beat him by knockout to get the decision,” Barthelemy said. “I could have gone the distance either way. I knew I could beat him because I come from the best school of boxing in the world: Cuba. I was able to see what type of fighter he was. He was a really good counterpuncher. I took that as a mental note when I was in the ring with him. I made it a strategy to make him come forward to me to take him out of his zone of counterpunching, and it worked.”
Next up is Antonio DeMarco, as Rances Barthelemy looks to keep his unbeaten record nice and shiny Sunday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, live on CBS (4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT). To keep on top of all things Barthelemy vs DeMarco, follow along on our fight page.