It might have been inevitable, but it was also illegal.
At least that’s what replays seem to show of Rances Barthelemy’s brutal second-round knockout of Argenis Mendez, which netted him the IBF junior lightweight title.
In what was expected to be a highly competitive season opening main event on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights from Minneapolis, Minn., Barthelemy overpowered Mendez (21-3-1, 11 knockouts) between all four bells, and for about three seconds after the final one.
Having staggered Mendez in the first frame with a left hook, and dropping him courtesy of an uppercut late in the second, Barthelemy (20-0, 13 KOs) had eight seconds to unload on his now-upright foe before the end of the bell. “Kid Blast” put together another combination, the bell rang to end the round, and with referee Pete Podgorski nowhere in sight, he simply finished his flurry with a left hook that flattened Mendez. Podgorski did not admonish the Cuban, and administered the ten count to end the fight.
It should be noted that there was no visible malice from Barthelemy, or intent to break the rules by any means. Podgorski was behind both fighters in a neutral corner, unable to give any audible verbal cues to warn either man of the round ending, let alone step in to ensure the action stopped when it was supposed to. The onus was on him to do both of those things.
However, Barthelemy being in charge of the fight, and from most spectators’ standpoint, on his way to ending the fight in the same manner anyway should not be reason to shrug off what took place.
"I'm gonna go to the commission and have them look at the tape," said Mendez’s promoter Mike Tyson. "Barthelemy was winning the bout, but he hit the man after the bell, and that was after the rules."
Though the commission will indeed have to review the happenings of the fight, they should not bear the burden of responsibility for Podgorski’s performance either. The knee jerk reaction on social media following the bout was to blame Minnesota, a state that doesn’t regularly house televised world title fights, for hiring a second-rate referee. However, Twitter Nation ignored the fact that Podgorski was an IBF-approved Chicago native with more than 50 world title fights under his belt.
A blown call caused what might have been a more dangerous than needed ending for the Dominican, and marred what should otherwise be remembered as a tremendous title-winning performance by Barthelemy.
Prior to the main event, late replacement Ossie Duran took full advantage of his belated invitation and nearly spoiled the party for the host, Minnesota’s Caleb Truax.
Duran and Truax fought to a spirited draw, one that some online observers saw in favor of the Ghanaian journeyman. Scores were 95-95 across the board.
Despite his reputation as a slow starter—and having admittedly watched no footage of Truax whatsoever—Duran (28-11-3, 11 KOs) was very active with his jab in the early rounds. By doubling up his left hand, he forced the natural counter puncher Truax to continually reset and look for openings.
Eventually, Truax (23-1-2, 14 KOs) went against his instincts and began taking charge, wrapping right hands around his foe’s tight guard, and attempting to jab with him. In the sixth round, the home state favorite found a home for a right uppercut in between said guard, but unfortunately, he was never able to do so with regularity. Despite a fairly high output of 678 punches over 10 rounds, he connected just 106 times.
Duran, 36, Accra, Ghana was slightly more accurate, landing 121 of 447 shots according to CompuBox, many of which were more eye-catching than his opponent’s.
The draw is not disastrous for Truax necessarily, but it will certainly swing the public’s opinion of him. Last time he was seen on television, he scored a 6th round stoppage of Don George, who for all his admirable qualities as a fighter, is no defensive marvel. Not surprisingly, he made Truax look offensively brilliant last June. This time, he faced a man known for his chin and defensive responsibility, which has carried him to a lengthy career marked by giving tough outings to favored hometown fighters.
Truax will still likely have an opportunity to face a bigger name in the division, and only then will we know if Duran was a bad style matchup or definitive measurement of his potential.
In the featured swing bout of the evening, US national amateur standout Erickson Lubin knocked out hopelessly overmatched Luis Santiago in just 61 seconds.
Lubin was at the center of a controversy last fall between his promoter Mike Tyson and USA Boxing, which accused Tyson of poaching Lubin (2-0, 2 KOs) without his best interests in mind.
Even USA Boxing couldn’t argue that Lubin was put in any sort of danger whatsoever on Friday night.
Corey Erdman is a staff writer for RingTV.com, a host at Fight Network in Canada, and a regular commentator for WealthTV and international broadcasts. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman.