SIGNIFICANT result from the weekend’s double boxing helping in Las Vegas was Cuba’s Rances Barthelemy joining the crowded throng of talented light-welterweights by outclassing Antonio DeMarco.
Barthelemy held the IBF belt at super-feather until fairly recently, so was jumping up two weight classes for this one. At 5ft 11ins he didn’t seem outsized, so may yet have a role to play at 140, where there are plenty of good opponents in Terence Crawford, Lucas Matthysse or even Ruslan Provodnikov.
Still, to my way of thinking, breezing past a weight to go the next one up always seems a risky strategy. The fact that Roberto Duran made a success of it when he jumped from 135 to 147 to trounce Carlos Palomino and then Sugar Ray Leonard merely proves my point: Duran was an exceptional fighter.
But other Cubans have made similar leaps, which makes me wonder if it’s a result of that nation’s amateur system, where the abundance of talents means boxers often have to hold a weight beyond their natural time. Take Yuriorkis Gamboa, who has a pro won a world title at featherweight (126lbs) then appeared to be drifting up to 130, only to grab a big fight with Terence Crawford at 135. Gamboa’s blazing speed troubled Crawford in the early going, but then the Omaha man made good use of his size – not to mention his skills – to hammer Yuri to ninth-round defeat.
Subsequently there was talk of Gamboa dropping down to 130, but since he boxes about as often as Halley’s Comet appears in the sky, who knows what he will do? But he had done the same thing in the amateurs when he jumped from 51 kgs (113lbs), where he won the 2004 Olympics, to 57 kgs (125lbs), where he earned bronze at the 2005 World Championships (he lost his semi-final on a cuts stoppage).
Gamboa bypassed 54 kgs (119lbs) because Guillermo Rigondeaux was top dog at that weight and was always going to be first choice. That Gamboa was good enough to climb two weights and still be successful shows what a talent he is.
But in those days he was part of the successful Cuban amateur system, where being a top performer on the national team was a full-time job, with access to the best coaches and nutrition, etc. Once left to their own devices in the pro game, many Cubans have struggled to replicate the sort of discipline required in the unpaid ranks – just look at Odlanier Solis, who as a pro has probably caused more damage to scales than to opponents.
Barthelemy, who turns 28 on June 25, has so far given no signs that he will go down that route. And with those Cuban skills, don’t bet against him winning a world title at 140lbs.