By Lem Satterfield
Cuban two-division champion Rances Barthelemy will fight Robert Frankel of Denver at 138-pounds on the undercard of the WBC 154- and 160-pound double-header defenses by the undefeated Charlo twins, Jermell, and Jermall, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on a December 22 PBC on FOX card (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
Barthelemy (26-1, 13 KOs) has split his past two bouts with WBA 140-pound champion Kiryl Relikh (23-2, 19 KOs), winning by disputed unanimous decision in a May 2017 clash featuring a knockdown by each fighter, and losing their vacant title return bout by one-sided unanimous decision in March.
“I was my first loss. I was heartbroken,” said Barthelemy, 32, who made his 140-pound debut against Relikh. “I’ve taken some time to think and I’ve made some adjustments. My whole corner has changed.”
Barthelemy has since replaced trainer Ismael Salas with Cuban former two-division champion Joel Casamayor, whose assistant is Rances’ brother, Yan, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist.
“My head trainer, Joel Casamayor, and my brother, Yan, will be good for me,” said Barthelemy, who lives in Las Vegas. “In my last fight, I got away from some of strategies and techniques of the past, so they will be restoring them and bringing them back.”
Barthelemy had won each of his professional fights either by knockout or unanimous decision up until June 2016, when his split-decision over Mickey Bey represented the first defense of the vacant 135-pound championship won by unanimous decision over
Russian southpaw Denis Shafikov (December 2015).
Barthelemy earned the IBF’s 130-pound championship with a unanimous decision that dethroned Argenis Mendez in a July 2014 rematch.
Barthelemy-Mendez II became necessary after Mendez’s controversial, second round knockout loss to Barthelemy in January 2014, which was overturned and ruled a no-decision by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, restoring Mendez as the IBF’s junior lightweight titleholder.
Mendez had hit the deck and was counted out in their first fight, but Barthelemy’s punch appeared to have landed after the bell.
Barthelemy’s resume also includes a unanimous decision over left-handed former champion Antonio DeMarco, whom he faced in June 2015 before beating Shafikov.
For Barthelemy, defeating Relikh would have made him the first Cuban fighter to win three titles over as many divisions, a feat “Kid Blast” hoped would have leveraged high-profile fights opposite the likes of three- and four-division champions Terence Crawford and Mikey Garcia.
“I wanted to be the first Cuban to win a title in a third weight division,” said Barthelemy. “But my manager, Luis DeCubas, wants me to go back down to 135. My ultimate goal is to return to 140 and become the first Cuban fighter to win three titles in three different divisions.”
The 38-year-old Frankel (38-19-1, 8 KOs) was last in action for September’s fourth-round TKO Donaldo Holquin.
“I want to get a knockout,” said Barthelemy. “But I also wanna go a bit of a distance so people can see my skills.”