Rances Barthelemy was dropped for the first time in his career in questionable fashion, but he didn’t let that knock him off course against Mickey Bey.
Barthelemy overcame a second-round knockdown that was actually caused by a headbutt Friday night and used his length and reach advantages to gain a split decision and retain his 135-pound world title at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
After seemingly controlling the action in the second half of the bout, Rances Barthelemy (25-0, 13 KOs) believed he had earned a unanimous decision. But when the scores were read, the 29-year-old Cuba native, who prevailed 116-111 and 117-110 on two of the scorecards, had to sweat it out when judge Hilton Whitaker Jr. ruled 117-110 in favor of Mickey Bey (22-2-1, 10 KOs).
“When I heard the judge who gave the score to Bey, I thought to myself, ‘He’s either blind or he is bought,’” said Barthelemy, who won for the first time by an outcome other than knockout or unanimous decision. “I felt that was disrespectful, not only to me, but to the fans as well.”
The switch-hitting Barthelemy came out aggressively from the opening bell and fought almost exclusively from the orthodox stance as he walked down Bey, who chose to counterpunch against the taller champion.
With less than 10 seconds left in the second round, Barthelemy fell to the canvas during an exchange and referee Sam Burgos ruled it a knockdown, although it was caused by an accident headbutt. Bey helped sell it to Burgos, though, by throwing his hands up in celebration as Barthelemy went down.
“I really don’t remember exactly what happened, but I felt it was more of a slip than anything,” Barthelemy said. “I was a little off-balance, and we butted heads, so that’s when I went down. But I don’t mind that they counted it. It didn’t affect me at all, psychologically.
“It was the first time in my entire career, both amateurs and professionals, that I hit the canvas in any way, so that sent me a little bit into shock. But I came back up unharmed. It just caught me off guard since that had never happened before. I was in good shape at all times, though.”
Bey, 32, also was adversely affected by a clash of heads that caused bleeding over his left eye during the fourth round, but he fought effectively working behind his jab and countering Barthelemy.
“After I dropped him, he got me again with a good headbutt,” Bey said. “The cut on my eye affected me for about four or five rounds, but it’s a fight, so you have to do the best you can with the vision you have.”
Barthelemy outworked Bey down the stretch as he continued to hammer away at the body and use his length to control the distance.
“I knew I had to come out strong and put the pressure on [Bey], because I knew the judges might take that against me,” Barthelemy said. “My mentality originally was to box, but I had to change my plans and start putting pressure on him.
“We knew that he was prepared for us and that he was going to be a evasive counterpuncher, so we knew what we were up against.”
Barthelemy retained the 135-pound title he earned in December by beating Denis Shafikov after Bey vacated the crown last June. Now the two-division world champion, who relinquished his 130-pound title last year in order to move up, will take time to decide whether to seek a 135-pound title unification bout or move up again to 140.
“We asked for an exception to fight Bey, and [unbeaten 135-pound contender Richard Commey] is our mandatory, so we have to fight him to keep the title, but we want to get Rances a big-money fight,” promoter Leon Margules said.
“If there’s a bigger fight at 140, that’s where Rances wants to go. There are a whole bunch of guys at 140. I would love to fight [Scottish world champion] Ricky Burns, or maybe Adrien Broner. It’s been a great weight class for a while.”
In other televised fights on the card, 118-pound prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez (15-0, 10 KOs) earned a unanimous decision over two-time title challenger Alberto Guevara (24-3, 9 KOs), and 160-pound prospect Caleb Plant (13-0, 10 KOs) gained a fourth-round knockout of Colombia’s Carlos Galvan (12-5-1, 11 KOs).
For a complete look at Barthelemy vs Bey, including all three judges’ scorecards, visit our fight page.