TWO-WEIGHT world champion Rances Barthelemy hopes to be reunited with his family in Cuba after he defends his IBF world lightweight title against Mickey Bey on June 3.
Barthelemy defected from Cuba – where professional boxing is not allowed – eight years ago and has since beaten the likes of Argenis Mendez and Denis Shafikov during his 24 fight unbeaten run.
Bey will be Barthelemy’s first defence since beating Shafikov for the vacant strap in December, and Rances hopes for an emotional celebration should he win.
“I will be headed straight to the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. after the fight to try to obtain a visa so I can finally return to Cuba and visit my family that I have not seen since my defection eight years ago,” he said.
“I thought I would never be able to return but now I will be returning as a two-time world champion with grand dreams of one day headlining the first pro boxing event in Cuba.”
The pair will meet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida and a large Cuban fanbase is expected on the night.
Barthelemy – who lives in Miami – is excited to box infront of what will feel like a home crowd.
“That’s my backyard and it’s another advantage for me,” he said.
“It is like being in a free Cuba pretty much and I don’t think I’ll ever feel as comfortable fighting anywhere else with the majority of the people being there to support me. It means the world to me to be able to fight in front of my fans and my closest friends. It’s the closest thing to being able to fight in my country.”
During his points win over Shafikov, Barthelemy found himself in several firefights. The 29-year-old is proud of the way he went about beating the highly-rated Russian.
“It was a really tough fight and definitely a great learning experience. I made it tougher than it should have been but I had never been in a war like that before and adrenaline kicked in,” he said.
“The blood made me want to dig down and trade with him in the center of the ring and beat him at his own game. It was the first time I had to go down to the trenches and engage in a fight like that but I wanted to do it to show that not all Cubans are boring and only box around.”
When reflecting on his fight with Bey, the Cuban stylist was typically cocksure in his prediction.
“I feel I am levels above Mickey Bey in all aspects of the game. I am comfortable with my training and I plan on returning to Miami with my second world title. The adrenaline of fighting in front of my Cuban people will add fuel to my fire and propel me to victory. I am on a mission to be great and leave an imprint in the sport and Mickey Bey is in the way.”