Boxing is a Cuban thing. Any boxing aficionado or Cuban will tell you that. That’s boxing as opposed to blood-and-guts, take two punches to give one punch-style fighting. Rances Barthelemy is a perfect poster boy for the slick Cuban style of boxing. Or at least he was up until his latest fight on Friday with Russian brawler Denis Shafikov. While Barthelemy did pull out a unanimous decision victory after a full twelve rounds of action, he made the fight a lot harder than it needed to be. It could’ve been to display his versatility, or it could’ve been an unconscious turn of the tide. Whatever the reason may be, Barthelemy dispensed with his usual fleet-footed boxing in order to fight Shafikov’s fight: stand at close range and exchange power punches.
With plenty of ring space to dance circles around a bewildered opponent, Barthelemy instead decided to go exchange in the middle of the ring. The middle rounds saw him get tagged by solid punches at the hands of Denis Shafikov. Typically, Barthelemy exercises defensive superiority. But Friday exposed certain holes in his defense at close range. As the fight progressed through the rounds, Barthelemy seemed to have more and more difficulty rooting his feet to land powerful punches. In fact, it was the Russian contender Shafikov who was landing the crisper punches. Many times, as Shafikov pulled out of range, Barthelemy did not stay on him and counter, as he usually does. The action was roughly equal all the way up until the eighth round, at which point the Cuban boxer began to hit his stride and began to land accurate counter-punches.
Perhaps the most striking contrast between the two fighters, from an audience perspective, is the varying degree of polish on each fighter’s style. In a word, Denis Shafikov is rugged. Rances Barthelemy, on the other hand exudes flashiness. The glaring difference could have made the Cuban boxer’s punches more noticeable to spectators. And at the end of the fight, Barthelemy was the standout as a performer in the ring. Fans would want to see him again by virtue of this performance alone, so the way he adjusted might serve to gain him a bigger following.
The fight netted Barthelemy his second world title, though there are big hopes for this man to move up in weight to challenge world champions at light welterweight, welterweight and even super welterweight. Should that happen, it will be very interesting to see how Barthelemy will adjust to the remarkable increase in punching power in successively higher weight divisions. His bout with Shafikov demonstrated that an assertive and well-timed jab can open the doors to a battle in the ring where he is more vulnerable than he has been as a fleet-footed boxer.