Rances Barthelemy to take aim at 135-pound title when he battles Denis Shafikov on December 18

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Rances Barthelemy knows the euphoria that comes with being a world champion, having claimed a 130-pound title 16 months ago. Now the undefeated Cuban is looking to experience boxing bliss again—this time at a higher weight class.

Rances Barthelemy and Antonio DeMarco

Rances Barthelemy fires a left hand during his win over Antonio DeMarco in Las Vegas on June 21. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

Rances Barthelemy (23-0, 13 KOs) will look to post his third victory of 2015 and earn a vacant 135-pound world title when he battles Russia’s Denis Shafikov (36-1-1, 19 KOs) on December 18 in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card from the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).

The card will also feature another world championship bout, as Beibut Shumenov (16-2, 10 KOs) puts his 200-pound title on the line against former two-time champ Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (49-3-1, 35 KOs).

Nearly three months after claiming his 130-pound crown with a 12-round unanimous decision over Argenis Mendez in July 2014, Barthelemy successfully defended his title with a 12-round shutout of veteran Fernando David Saucedo.

Barthelemy then jumped up in weight for two bouts this year, earning a second-round TKO of Angino Perez on March 26 and a shutout of Antonio DeMarco over 10 rounds on June 21. The former Cuban amateur national champion fought Perez at 137½ pounds and DeMarco at 139½.

The 29-year-old Barthelemy, who now lives in Las Vegas, has been thoroughly dominant since turning pro in August 2008. In addition to 13 stoppage victories, he has defeated his other 10 opponents by unanimous decision.

Shafikov has been equally impressive in his career, with 19 stoppages, 16 unanimous decisions and one disqualification among his 36 victories. The 30-year-old southpaw's only defeat came in February 2014, when he dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to Miguel Vazquez in a 135-pound title clash in Macau.

Since then, Shafikov has posted a trio of victories, including a third-round TKO of Roy Mukhlis in his most recent bout in July. Prior to that contest, which also was in Macau, the lifelong resident of Miass, Russia, fought in Las Vegas and California. Shafikov’s only other bout on U.S. soil was in August 2013, a seventh-round TKO of Santos Benavides in Laredo, Texas.

“Shafikov is a very tough opponent, and at this level everyone is dangerous, so I’m taking this fight very seriously,” Barthelemy says. “Fans love to see action, and that’s what I bring to every fight. I’m going to send a stern message to the world of boxing that I’m one of the best in the sport.”

Says Shafikov: “I’ve been preparing my whole life for this fight and to become a world champion. While I have a great deal of respect for Barthelemy, I will be victorious on December 18.”

A native of Kazakhstan now living in Las Vegas, Shumenov claimed his crown with a 12-round unanimous decision over B.J. Flores on July 25. That followed a fifth-round stoppage victory over Bobby Thomas Jr. in December.

Shumenov is 8-1 since the start of 2010, the only loss being a 12-round split decision to former multi-division world champ Bernard Hopkins in April 2014.

Wlodarczyk, from Warsaw, Poland, will be seeking his third world title at 200 pounds. He dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to Grigory Drozd in Moscow in September to lose his title after defending it six times. It was the first defeat in more than seven years for Wlodarczyk, who beat Steve Cunningham in November 2006 to win his first world championship.

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