On a snowy night in Minneapolis, Rances Barthelemy caught a lucky break, Argenis Mendez drew the opposite number, Ossie Duran spoiled the coming out party of the hometown hero, and Caleb Truax learned that he still has more to learn.
Rances Barthelemy and Argenis Mendez were matched for Mendez’s IBF Junior Lightweight trinket and the title that it represents. Barthelemy, the challenger, won the bout under controversial circumstances.
The first round started slowly, with Mendez being respectful and tentative and Barthelemy testing the waters and evidently laying a trap. After some soft jabbing and unexpectedly passive behavior, Barthelemy erupted about halfway through the first round with a ferocious attack that hurt Mendez. In the second, Mendez was initially more active and tried to regain the initiative, but Barthelemy remained in control. Finally Barthelemy exploded again and knocked Mendez down. Then the end of the second was the beginning of controversy, as Barthelemy threw a right and a left well after the bell, and knocked Mendez out. Though the referee and the TV audience didn’t hear the bell, numerous ringside observers and at least one IBF official in attendance confirmed to this writer that the knockout punch was thrown significantly after the chime. Most up-to-date word is that an appeal will be heard by the IBF, so hopefully the result can be changed to a No Contest and a rematch ordered.
In the Co-Main Event, Ossie Duran posed an unexpectedly tough test for rising middleweight star Caleb Truax, who was unable to solve Duran’s hard jab despite an admirable effort. The end result was a unanimous draw, scored 95-95 by all three judges.
Duran is known to be a tough and experienced veteran, and he surely raised his stock by frustrating Truax with his tight defense and that punishing jab. Truax maintained an aggressive attitude throughout, but wasn’t able to penetrate Duran’s defense with any consistency. Though Truax had his moments (particularly in the later rounds), the enduring images of this fight will be Duran’s left hand in Truax’s face and the smudge of blood around Truax’s nose.
Though one wag was heard to say unequivocally that Truax should never rematch Duran, I think the opposite. Duran was a tough riddle for Truax mainly because Truax had such difficulty solving the jab. Truax should work on countermeasures for that jab and once he has learned to cope with it, he should show the world his improvement. Or at the very least, he should make time to spar with Duran.
In undercard action:
- Adrian Martinez (2-0-1) defeated Trevor Marmon (1-1-1) in a rematch of their September 21st draw. The first match between the two was a crowdpleasing slugfest with an inconclusive conclusion, but this one brought a decisive result. Marmon started out strong and aggressive, but Martinez’s strong leads and counters sapped his strength and Marmon ran completely out of gas (and verticality) in the third. The result was a 3rd round TKO, per world-class referee Mark Nelson.
- Dennis Galarza, a 21 year old whippet from Orlando, whipped Celiel Castillo in another four-rounder. Castillo was much shorter than Galarza, and looked physically very soft. Galarza knocked Castillo down in the first and maintained his dominance for the duration, finishing up with 40-35 scores across the board. Galarza improved his record to 2-0 while Castillo chalked up a loss in his professional debut.
- Erickson Lubin wasted no time in thrashing his opponent, Luis Santiago. Lubin, with a wedge-shaped shock of hair atop his head, hammered his unfortunate opponent for one minute before taking him out at 1:01 of the first. It was Santiago’s first loss after four wins to inaugurate his professional career. Lubin advanced to 2-0 with 2 KOs, and more to come if he continues to perform as he did tonight.
- Javontae Starks moved to 8-0 with 5 knockouts with a split decision win against Limberth Ponce, whose record is now 6-1 with 4 knockouts. This match sometimes looked like a boxing match, other times a war. Starks is a beautiful boxer with a strong right hand, while Ponce, in a pinch, would resort to brawling tactics. The split result is an accurate reflection of the nature of the bout; one could have had either man winning. The only result that couldn’t conscientiously be forwarded was a scoring draw, since Starks scored a knockdown with a big right-handed counter at the end of the second round.
- Lightweight prospect Tony Lee improved to 9-1 with 3 knockouts by gutting out a punishing unanimous decision against Willshaun Boxley, now 6-9 with 4 kayos. Lee is a disciplined and cautious boxer, while Boxley is a flamboyant boxer-puncher who started his career 5-0 and has been in freefall ever since. Boxley hadn’t fought in nearly two years, and was fighting over ten pounds above his ideal weight, but he showed guts and determination in his bout against a man who held nearly every advantage – height, activity, management. Boxley’s only advantage was power, but it wasn’t enough to make Lee pay. Lee boxed well, and punished Boxley mercilessly with a hard and insistent jab.
- In a sloppy bout campaigned by novices, Damien Hill improved to 2-3 while pinning Nate Richardson (now 1-1) with his first loss. A fight like this one poses a challenge to the writer, because there is no real narrative to offer. “Hill hits Richardson. Now Richardson hits Hill. Hill hits Richardson again.” At this level of competition a jab might be no straighter than a hook, and a hook can pass for a straight. Richardson possesses plenty of aggression and toughness, but those are insufficient virtues for a professional boxer. Hill is significantly taller, and a more accurate puncher, and that made the difference.