THE “force” was with Cuban star and newly crowned IBF lightweight world champion Rances Barthelemy (24-0, 13 KOs) as he won a 12-round unanimous decision over Russian southpaw Denis Shafikov (36-2-1, 19 KOs) in the headlining bout of the final Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Spike fight card of 2015 on Friday. The four-fight telecast, which was supported by non-televised fights featuring some of Mayweather Promotions’ rising stars, took place at the Pearl at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Coming off of a luxury world tour, Floyd Mayweather returned stateside and sat ringside as promoter of tonight’s fights. The recently retired five-division world champion, who also learned today he was selected as Sports Illustrated Fighter of the Year, was animated and engaged through the final bell of the evening.
The main event, which started off as a close toe-to-toe battle, ended in the Barthelemy’s favor as he swept the latter quarter of the bout. Shafikov controlled the beginning of the fight, staying in the pocket and throwing more powerful punches than Barthelemy as the Cuban had a difficult time adjusting to the significantly shorter, yet stronger, style of Shafikov.
The turning point of the fight occurred when a cut caused by a punch by Barthelemy opened up above Shafikov’s right eye in the eighth round. The blood began to poor furiously and referee Vic Drakulich called the ringside doctor over to inspect the cut. When the fight resumed, Barthelemy attacked the Russian’s eye and never let up for the remainder of the fight. He took advantage of the cut and coupled it with his height and reach advantage which led to a recipe for success as he is now a two-division world champion. The judges saw the bout 119-109 and 116-112 twice.
“There were moments where I was trapped into my style of fighting. It took me a minute to adjust to Shafikov’s style and exchange punches with him,” said Barthelemy. “I’m really happy with the number of punches I was able to get off.
“I was really impressed with Shafiov’s warrior style. He never gave up even after getting hurt with punches that were affecting his fight. That really caught me by surprise and also that he was able to last the whole fight. The fact that he continued really says something about him as a fighter.”
“I’m not sure if I won the fight,” said Shafikov. “I’m very disappointed and I want a rematch.”
The co-main event saw a bizarre ending to what was to be a cruiserweight elimination bout. Detroit southpaw Isiah Thomas (15-0, 6 KOs) was winning the fight on all three judges’ scorecards through round three when Russian power-puncher Murat “Iron” Gassiev (22-0, 16 KOs) threw accidental late blows to Thomas’ head after the bell. The punches forced referee Jay Nady to make the tough call that the punches “diminished the value” of Thomas’ ability to continue. As the fight had not yet gone four rounds, unified rules state that the fight does not go to the scorecards, thus ruling it a no contest.
Chris Pearson (16-1 11 KOs), a promising super welterweight from Dayton, Ohio put his previously undefeated record on the line against fellow unbeaten Eric Walker (12-0, 6 KOs) of Plaquemine, Louisiana in the second televised bout. Walker came out strong, dominating the early rounds against Pearson, another member of the stable of rising stars from Mayweather Promotions. A wobbled Pearson persevered and attempted to turn the tide in an action-packed fifth round with a series of head shots.
The seventh round saw both fighters exchanging a brutal barrage of punches culminating with a fast-paced eighth and final round drawing a standing ovation from the crowd. The underdog Walker, who spent 13 years in Dixon Correctional Institute in Louisiana, scored a unanimous decision victory (79-71, 78-74, 80-72) winning the biggest fight of his life in front of a captivated national TV audience.
“If you believe in God and work hard at what you’re doing, you’re going to succeed,” said Walker. “Look at me now.
“I had watched his previous fights and knew that my right hand would be too much for him and that I could land it anytime,” continued Walker. “My conditioning was really the difference tonight. I was in great shape and I was able to rely on that when the going got tough.”
Pearson was disappointed in the decision and was left wanting a rematch.
“I take my hat off to him,” said Pearson. “His punches were crisp and hard. I just couldn’t get going on anything consistently. I thought it was closer than the judges’ scorecards and I definitely want a rematch as soon as possible.”
In the opening bout of the evening, one of boxing’s fast rising stars, Gervonta “The One” Davis (14-0, 13 KOs) out of Baltimore put his undefeated record on the line against Mexico’s Luis Sanchez (17-5-1, 5 KOs) in a lightweight clash.
Davis, a 21-year-old protégé of Mayweather, lived up to his reputation as a budding superstar scoring a hard-fought ninth round knockout victory. Sanchez showed his toughness and resiliency as he forced Davis to fight three rounds longer than any fight of his career. Davis showed his speed and power in the eighth round as he landed an uppercut to knock down his determined opponent. In the ninth round, he threw a massive left hand to finish Sanchez, sending Mayweather to his feet in celebration.
“It felt great to fight all of these rounds and get the work in,” said Davis. “He’s a tough fighter and I learned a great deal tonight. It was a very good experience for me.
“I just listened to my corner and Floyd, took my time and broke him down. I want to fight again as soon as possible for a world title.”
Mayweather, who was very pleased with Davis’ performance, sees the young undefeated fighter’s future as bright. “It’s always good to go out there and get the W,” said Mayweather. “He’s young. He’s still learning. We’re looking forward to him being a world champion some day.”
Mayweather relished in the opportunity to promote one of the final fights of the year in his hometown of Las Vegas saying, “I’m so happy we were able to showcase on national television some of the talented fighters we have at Mayweather Promotions. Win or lose, I am proud of all of them.
“More importantly I want to wish everyone Happy Holidays and thank for them supporting me, Mayweather Promotions and The Money Team throughout all of these years. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”