FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD
According to a script that has long since been fed to the shredder, Peyton Manning is flaunting more Super Bowl rings than Eli, and Venus Williams has won more majors than Serena.
Never tell little brothers or little sisters that they shouldn’t dream big.
It was going to be difficult for Rances Barthelemy to outperform his older brother Yan. Rances was a good amateur boxer, but Yan won Olympic gold for Cuba in 2004, and was heavily hyped upon defecting and turning pro.
Fast-forward 10 years: Yan, a bantamweight who’s been inactive since February 2012, has compiled a record of 12-3. Boxing is a most unforgiving sport, and he’s been all but forgotten. Rances, six years younger, is unbeaten IBF super featherweight champion, and will be defending the title against Argentina’s Fernando Saucedo on a Showtime Boxing Special Edition this Saturday night at Foxwoods.
Where Yan lost his seventh pro bout, Rances is 20-0, and at age 28, looks to establish himself as a force in a largely unpublicized division.
The road hasn’t been cleanly paved. In 2013, Barthelemy won a highly disputed decision in an elimination bout vs. Afghanistan’s Arash Usmanee. Some writers called it a flat-out robbery. One year later, Barthelemy knocked out defending IBF titlist Argenis Mendez. Only one problem: The kayo punch was clearly launched after the bell ending round two.
In July, Barthelemy won the mandated rematch, and Saucedo will be his first defense.
Based on skill set, Barthelemy should keep the title. The Cuban, who at 5’11” is unusually tall for his weight class, boxes smartly, bangs when necessary, and fights with a cockiness/confidence that is standard for most Cuban professionals.
The 32-year-old Saucedo, 52-5-3, is a mild threat for three reasons: He’s remarkably sturdy (no stoppage losses in 60 bouts), he’s battle-tested (road losses to longtime titlists Chris John in Indonesia and Acelino Freitas in Brazil), and he’s streaking (since losing to then-featherweight champion John in 2010, he’s gone 14-0, albeit entirely in Argentina).
This has nothing to do with anything, but Saucedo looks like Michael C. Hall, who played Dexter on the long-running Showtime series. To the best of my knowledge, Saucedo is not a serial killer, nor does he play one on TV in Argentina.
Expect a long fight. Unless Saucedo dramatically raises his game or fights against type by forcing phone booth warfare, the title isn’t likely to change hands.
The co-feature, matching junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan and Willie Nelson, is a modern-era rarity–a fight between legitimate contenders. With so many alphabet organizations and world championships to shoot for, fighters often secure top 15 rankings and subsequent title shots without earning them.
That won’t be the case for Martirosyan, a 2004 U.S. Olympian who’s already fought once for a title, and Nelson, who’s seeking his first shot.
These 154-pounders are not all that different from each other. Martirosyan, who stands 6’0?, is taller than most of his opponents. Nelson, who stands 6’3 1/2?, is taller than all of his opponents.
Both fighters rely on jabs and one-twos. Nelson is more aggressive and packs a stronger punch, while Martirosyan has faster hands and feet and the sturdier chin.
Maybe I’d make Martirosyan a slight favorite, but this is close to a pick-‘em fight. The winner will be in a strong position to fight for a title.
Also on the card: Former light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson will continue his comeback with a bout vs. Pennsylvania veteran Tommy Karpency.
See you on Saturday!