Fighting

Rances Barthelemy retains IBF junior-lightweight belt with win over Fernando Saucedo

IBF junior-lightweight champion Rances Barthelemy.
IBF junior-lightweight champion Rances Barthelemy. EL NUEVO HERALD

In the days leading to his first world title defense, Rances Barthelemy stressed how he now has become a targeted fighter. Having a belt indeed results in the proverbial “bull’s-eye,” and Barthelemy acknowledged the importance of dodging ammunition that could immediately end his reign.

Barthelemy, a native of Cuba and Miami resident, not only eluded Fernando Saucedo’s best shots but also easily outclassed his veteran Argentine opponent with a lopsided unanimous decision late Saturday in Mashantucket, Connecticut. With the victory, Barthelemy retained the International Boxing Federation junior-lightweight belt he won against Argenis Mendez on July 10 at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Utilizing his height and reach advantage, Barthelemy (21-0, 1 no contest) frustrated Saucedo (52-6-3) with lefts to the head and body during the 12-round duration. However, the fight featured several moments of inactivity, prompting jeers from the crowd at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Instead of intensifying the pace and possibly finishing Saucedo within the distance, Barthelemy settled for a 120-108 verdict on all three judges’ scorecards.

“I must admit that at some moments in the fight I relaxed more than I should have,” Barthelemy said. “Perhaps that is why I couldn’t reward the fans with a knockout win.”

Now Barthelemy also must deal with the accusations directed at fellow Cuban fighters and world champions Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara. Despite superb boxing skills, fighters developed in the Cuban amateur system don’t appeal to many professional fight fans and their craving for repeated action and knockout-searching performances.

“Sometimes, [boxing] is a fight to the death and other times it is a match of styles,” Barthelemy said. “[Saturday] I imposed my style and that was sufficient.

“It was a good fight. Saucedo is a veteran guy. In one moment, I thought I was going to knock him out, but he knows how to make the fight last.”

KOVALEV GETS READY

After he completes the strength and conditioning phase in California on Thursday, light-heavyweight champion and Fort Lauderdale resident Sergey Kovalev will return to South Florida and resume boxing preparations for his title unification fight against Bernard Hopkins on Nov.8 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

But Kovalev, the reigning World Boxing Organization titleholder, has additional concerns beyond the highly anticipated fight with Hopkins. Kovalev’s wife, Natalya, is expected to give birth to the couple’s first child this month. Natalya Kovalev will remain in Los Angeles when her husband returns to South Florida to train for the Hopkins bout.

“I’ll be in training camp in Florida because this is the most important thing in my life right now,” Kovalev said. “The doctor says my baby is due Oct.17 but also said that we can plan one week early because in the last week the baby will be one pound more so for my wife it will be harder.”

Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 knockouts) said the unease of possibly missing the birth of his child won’t affect preparation for Hopkins, a part-time Miami Beach resident and reigning World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champion.

“It will be very difficult to fight him, and for me it will be a very big test,” Kovalev said. “I’m ready for any in my life. I have prepared for this test.”

AMATEUR MEDALS

Two South Florida amateur boxers have returned home with medals after their performances in the 2014 National PAL Championships last week in Oxnard, California.

Eric Tudor, of Hollywood, won a youth division championship Friday night. Tudor, 14, who trains at the Sweatbox Boxing and Fitness Center in Davie, defeated Giovanni Avila, of Victorville, California, in the finals of the 85-pound class featuring boxers in the 13-14 age division.

Miami resident Niko Valdes won a bronze medal in the men’s 178-pound class. Valdes, 20, a Gulliver Prep graduate, defeated Tyson Turner in the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Miguel Trejo.

GOOSSEN SERVICES

Funeral services for promoter Dan Goossen will be Tuesday night in Sherman Oaks, California. Goossen died of cancer last Monday. He was 64.

While overseeing America Presents in the 1990s and early 2000s, Goossen had a noticeable role promoting title fights in South Florida. Local championship bouts promoted by Goossen included a middleweight match between Hopkins and Antwun Echols and a super-lightweight fight featuring Kostya Tszyu and Miguel Angel Gonzalez. Both fights were at the Miccossukee Resort in west Miami-Dade.

Coming up

Wednesday (9 p.m., ESPN2): Sam Soliman vs. Jermain Taylor, 12, for Soliman’s IBF middleweight title.

Friday (10 p.m., Fox Sports1): Ronny Rios vs. Robin Castellanos, 10, featherweights.

Friday (11:30 p.m., Telemundo-Ch. 51): David Carmona vs. Martin Casillas, 12, junior bantamweights.

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