The fight trail that has taken Rances Barthelemy through eight states and Canada finally reached its coveted destination.
Nearly five years after defecting from his native Cuba, Barthelemy will fight for a professional world title.
The Miami resident will face defending champion Argenis Mendez for the International Boxing Federation junior-lightweight crown Jan. 3 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
The fight will open ESPN2 Friday Night Fights telecasts of the 2014 season.
“This is a dream come true,” Barthelemy said. “All the hard work we have put together, going through the fights that made me a contender, now has me in position to become a world champion.”
Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs) earned the title opportunity after a hard-fought and tight unanimous decision win against Arash Usmanee on Jan. 4 in Miami. Barthelemy built a solid lead early in the fight but needed to stave off a huge rally from Usmanee in the second half of the bout at the Magic City Casino.
“I knew I could have done better in that fight but my mind was preoccupied with other issues,” Barthelemy said. “I struggled with my weight, and my wife was pregnant and that affected my concentration.”
Barthelemy, 27, now feels rejuvenated after the birth of his daughter, Hally.
In his first fight after the win over Usmanee, Barthelemy scored a second-round knockout victory over Fahsai Sakkreerin on June 21.
“My daughter gives me an additional reason to work hard,” Barthelemy said. “She is like a new vitamin that has energized my life and career.”
Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KOs) will make his second title defense. The native of the Dominican Republic recently retained his belt with a majority draw against Usmanee on Aug. 23.
“We will be facing a very technical and smart fighter,” Barthelemy said. “But I will be ready for anything that he brings. This is my opportunity, and I am not going to waste it.”
Barthelemy, who is trained by Chico Rivas, has prepared for the fight at Contenders Gym in Fort Lauderdale. He will leave for Minneapolis on Jan. 1.
Around the ring
• Miami resident Glen Johnson made a successful debut at a new weight class on Wednesday night. Johnson won a unanimous decision against Bobby Gunn in Bethlehem, Pa.
After fighting the past 15 years in the light-heavyweight and super-middleweight divisions, Johnson has moved up to the cruiserweight class. Johnson, who turns 45 in January, is now 53-18-2.
• Long-time Miami Beach resident Chuck Talhami, one of the last remaining trainers who worked at the famed 5th Street Gym, died on Dec. 3 after a lengthy illness. He was 78.
“The last few months were difficult for him,” said friend and next door neighbor Barbara Buttrick, president of the Women’s International Boxing Federation. “He suffered so much that at the end it seemed as if his passing was like a relief. Chuck will be missed dearly.”
A native of Lebanon, Talhami trained Trinidad and Tobago’s Claude Noel to a world lightweight title in 1981. Noel became the first of Talhami’s titleholders that also included Miguel “Happy” Lora, Carlos De Leon and Leslie Stewart.
“Chuck always enjoyed telling the story of the reception Claude Noel received when they returned to Trinidad’s for the celebration,” Buttrick said. “They were treated like royalty.”
Buttrick said she and Talhami’s brother, Eddie, are planning a memorial ceremony to celebrate Talhami’s life and accomplishments.