RANCES BARTHELEMY has been one of the few shining lights in
Cuban professional boxing this year.
The IBF Super-Featherweight champion makes his BoxNation debut
on Saturday when he defends his title against Argentine Fernando
Despite being unbeaten in 21 contests, Rances's progress has
slipped under the radar compared to Yuriorkis Gamboa, Erislandy
Lara and the fight-mad island's top boxer, Guillermo Rigondeaux
The elite trio have found 2014 tough, while 'Kid Blast' finally
picked up his world title after two controversial clashes against
Barthelemy, 28, thought he had become champion when he 'knocked
out' Mendez in January.
He was announced the winner, but footage showed he flattened his
rival after the bell had sounded to end round two.
After an appeal to the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission and
the IBF, the result was changed to a no contest.
In July's rematch, Barthelemy won 115-111 on the three judges'
scorecards to be crowned champion, but that wasn't without
Then, Barthelemy diced with disqualification when body shots
strayed low and he was deducted points in rounds nine and ten.
That win for Rances who stands 5ft 11in tall, freakishly tall
for his division, has given Cuban boxing a shot in the arm.
Gamboa and Lara have suffered defeats and brilliant Rigondeaux
is being avoided by everybody. He might have to chop off a hand to
get a fight.
There are other Cuban world champions. Richard Abril holds the
WBA lightweight title, but travelled to Finland in mid-September to
get his first fight in 18 months.
IBF Cruiserweight champion, Yoan Pablo Hernandez wears the IBF
cruiserweight crown, but the German-based southpaw looks beatable
these days and has boxed just once this year.
Gamboa made the unwise decision to make a move up to lightweight
and was floored four times by WBO Lightweight champion Terence
Crawford before losing in nine rounds, just three months ago.
Two days after Barthelemy defeated Mendez, Lara showed his
ability but didn't do enough against Saúl 'Canelo' Álvarez and
dropped a split decision.
Rigondeaux has had just 104 seconds of action this year, blowing
out Thai Sod Kokietgym in a Macau show.
The WBO and WBA Super-Bantamweight had been due to face Chris
Avalos. Inexplicably the WBO mandatory walked away from the fight
last week after it had gone to purse bids.
Rigondeaux is a victim of his own brilliance, a fate Barthelemy
has not yet come across.
Plenty of fans expect Barthelemy's 73 inch reach to be too much
for Saucedo who has a 52-5-3 record and whose only loss in the
almost ten years came against Chris John in December 2010.
Opportunities appear scarce for Rigondeaux, while Gamboa and
Lara ponder the way back there could be a catalogue of
opportunities for Barthelemy.
WBC champion Takashi Miura and WBA title holder Takashi Uchiyama
might be reluctant to leave Japan, but WBO king Mikey Garcia might
jump at a unification fight once his promotional woes are
It is a wide open division and Barthelemy is getting the chances
to prove he can become one of Cuban boxing's most successful
A big performance on
BoxNation this weekend is a step in the right direction.