Argenis Mendez's controversial second-round knockout loss to Rances "Kid Blast" Barthelemy on Jan. 3 in Minneapolis has been overturned and ruled a "no-decision" by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, restoring Mendez as the IBF's junior lightweight titleholder.
Although Barthelemy (19-0, 12 knockouts) had dropped Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KOs) once prior to the stoppage, the knockout appeared to be the result of a punch that landed after the bell ending the second round. A flattened Mendez was counted out by referee Peter Podgorski officially at the mark of 2:59.
"I'm very, very happy that Minnesota was fair, and, as well, I'm excited. I actually want to give this guy Barthelemy a rematch, and I want it to be in Minnesota as well, because these guys were so fair with me," said Mendez, in a statement to RingTV.com. "I wasn't sure that they were going to play fair ball, but they've been great. They have been straight with me, so I want to return to Minnesota and do the rematch in Minnesota."
The move validates an appeal made by Mendez through his attorney Pat English and was made by commissioner Ken B. Peterson of the Department of Labor and Industry, which governs boxing in the state.
"After considering all briefings and exhibits, the commissioner The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry issues the order of no decision on the rule interpretation grievance filed by Argenis Mendez regarding the outcome of a professional boxing contest with Rances Barthelemy held in Minnesota on January 3, 2014," read Peterson's official ruling.
"They called the bout a no-decision, so, basically we won, and he's still the champion," said English. "The Department of Labor and Industry considered the facts carefully and ruled properly."
Mike Tyson, Mendez's promoter, applauded the ruling.
"This is a great day for boxing," said Tyson, president of Iron Mike Productions. "The decision proves that there is justice and integrity in the sport."
In his letter, Peterson wrote that Podgorski's "ruling that Mr. Mendez had been legally knocked out was inadvertent through what can only be considered human error," adding that Podgorski "acknowledges that he was getting into position, but the bell sounded while he was circling so his decision was based upon what he could hear and see at the time."
Peterson states that "The video replay presented by both parties as evidence clearly shows the knockout punch was after the bell had sounded," and that "the punches were an accidental foul which caused the knockout that ended the fight."
"I have considered provided by referee Peter Podgorski and consulted with an Ad Hoc Committee of the Minnesota Combative Sports Advisory Council regarding this grievance," stated Peterson's letter, in part. "My decision in this case is that the fight will be ruled a no decision."
Mendez's complaint, also filed with the IBF, contended that Podgorski "was not in position to immediately separate the fighters at the time the bell initially rang to end the round," and asked for an immediate rematch, if not, a no-decision.
IBF Champions Chairman Lindsay Tucker told RingTV.com that his organization would abide by the decision.
"Minnesota ruled it a no-decision, and we'll abide by that. If it's a no-decision, then everything goes back to the way that it was before the fight," said Tucker. "We would definitely be amenable to the rematch."
Neither English, who also sent a video of the bout to the department of labor and industry, asserted that Barthelemy intentionally landed his punches after the bell.
A post-round punch is illegal under The Association of Boxing Commission (ABC) rules which state "if an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout immediately, the bout will result in a no decision if stopped before four completed rounds."
"It was a case where we got hit after the bell, and these guys were honest enough to check it out and give us back the decision," said Jose Nunez, Mendez's manager. "I think that it was a fair decision, and we appreciate what Minnesota did and we appreciate the IBF. We've already spoken to Mike Tyson, and we told him that want to be fair and that we want to do the rematch in Minnesota."
Barthelemy's promoter, Leon Margules, of Warriors' Boxing, nevertheless, still was irate over the ruling, which he had not read at the time.
"I think that it's a horrible decision, I think that it's bad for boxing, and I think that they made a mistake. Of course my inclination is to [file an appeal]," said Margules, who has 30 days to appeal the decision.
"They made a mistake because the referee didn't call a foul, and the referee is the only person who can call a foul," Margules continued. "Basically, what they're saying is that a commission can discern a foul. A commission doesn't discern whether it's a foul. A commission doesn't discern whether it's intentional or incidental. A commission doesn't discern whether it's before or after the bell. They're questioning a referee's judgement call, and that's what they've done. They've taken what is traditionally a referee's decision out of their hands."
But Peterson calls the referee "the arbiter of what is occurring in the ring during a boxing contest," stating that, "in making these decisions, a referee cannot violate the clear meaning and intent of any of the rules."
"Mr. Barthelemy argues that the referee is the sole decision-maker and cannot be overruled by the commissioner even when the rules have been violated," Peterson wrote. "Agreement with this argument would be an invitation to potential widespread misconduct and is in direct conflict with the law. Referees, and all other participants in boxing contests, must be held accountable to all the rules."
Margules said Barthelemy was not available to comment.
"Rances doesn't want to talk to anyone. He's very upset. He can't believe that they did this to him. He feels like a victim, and he's very, very upset. I'm very, very upset at the moment," said Margules. "The guy trains his ass off, wins the world title, and they take it from him. You tell me if you would want to talk to anybody."