From Afghanistan to Canada to Miami, that was the journey for Arash Usmanee (20-1, 10 KOs), and unfortunately, that journey ended with rancid decision loss to Rances Barthelemy (18-0, 11 KOs) in Barthelemy’s adopted hometown. Usmanee, an Afghan fighting out of Canada, withstood Barthelemy’s early advances, and dominated his opponent with gritty in-fighting that featured clubbing blows which baffled the Cuban. Alas, the dark side of boxing showed, yet again, and snatched victory away from the rightful winner.
Barthelemy, before defecting to the United States, toiled for several years in the Cuban amateur scene, and built up a steady following after several promising performances in 2011. He was the marked favorite in this fight, and for the first three rounds, his long reach dominated the tempo. The shorter Usmanee attempted to make it to the inside, but the Cuban prevented him with several jabs that came close to being clubbing hooks. However, starting in the fourth round, Rances appeared to have an identity crisis, and allowed Usmanee to work on the inside. From there, Usmanee came prepared with a brutal array of left hooks to the body, and a rotating offering of straight left and right hands.
Barthelemy could now sweat the Afghan, as he took countless blows through the middle rounds. At times, it appeared Barthelemy was folding under the pressure; he routinely would square his body up, and lean on his opponent — hoping to avoid the type of punishment which had been dished out.
He did, however, have a brief spell of luck in the ninth and tenth rounds, where he managed to land several right hands which clearly had an effect. These were close rounds, but Usmanee would not be denied. In the eleventh, he mustered up his energy and delivered a ballsy output of offense, which appeared to turn the tide in the fight. The twelfth round was all his; he had Barthelemy reeling with an all-out assault that left the Cuban stumbling around the ring. It was a shock that Rances did not take a knee, and was the type of round in which one could be coaxed into scoring it 10-8, without the knockdown. By the final bell, it appeared that the Afghan was on the verge of an upset, with 3MoreRounds scoring the bout 116-112 for Arash Usmanee.
Ultimately, the shady league of boxing judges overruled the public sentiment, and awarded Barthelemy a victory with scorecards of 115-113, 116-112(2x). It was a wonderful fight ruined by the same old problems which have always played boxing.
Last September, Jonathan Gonzalez walked into the Turning Stone Casino, live on HBO, and stunk up the joint in a horrid display of professionalism against former titlist Serhiy Dzinziruk. That fight, and Gonzalez’s dramatic failure to make weight, left the boxing public sour on a Puerto Rican prospect who had once been christened as one of the island’s best young fighters. Seeking to rebuild his image, Gonzalez rode into Miami and grinded out a majority decision victory over Derek Ennis (23-3-1, 13 KOs), a durable Philly veteran. Perhaps, more importantly, Gonzalez showed up in shape.
The first few rounds saw the Puerto Rican as the aggressor, while Ennis looked the more crafty counterpart, who was content to seek out the occasional right hand. Gonzalez pounded the body, while Ennis landed the cleaner shots. The middle rounds saw Gonzalez’s output drop, and Ennis took full advantage; still riding those right hands as his sole salvation.
However, Gonzalez would find a second wind in the later rounds, and quickly went back to the body of Ennis — finding a frequent home with left hooks to the kidneys, along with looping uppercuts. By the end, Gonzalez had clearly won, albeit, in a performance that will not wipe away the sour taste left in the mouth of HBO audiences. The judges scored the bout 95-95, 98-92, and 97-93. Gonzalez, still, has some gaping holes in his game, and he fights in a style that’s not necessarily viewer friendly. It’ll be an up hill battle to gain his luster, but for tonight, he was back in the graces of victory.