Magic Trick: Barthelemy Decisions Usmanee
Arash Usmanee fought his heart out. Afghanis are born fighters. Ask the British. Ask the Russians. Ask Rances Barthelemy…
“Miami Beach is where neon goes to die.”—Lenny Bruce
ESPN’s inaugural fight card of 2013 ended on a note sour enough to remind us of the worst decisions of 2012.
The main event on Friday Night Fights, from Magic City Casino in Miami, Florida, was an IBF eliminator between undefeated junior lightweights Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy and Arash Usmanee.
Barthelemy, the 26-year-old Cuban who fights out of Miami, came into the bout with a 17-0 (11 KOs) record. Usmanee, 30, originally from Afghanistan but now fighting out of Montreal, Canada, was 20-0 with 10 KOs.
As ESPN main events go this was a good one. In addition to being undefeated, both fighters have an amateur pedigree; both fighters have history, having sparred several times; and Barthelemy and Usmanee have contrasting styles, which often makes for satisfying fights.
Barthelemy got off to a solid start. Wearing white trunks and fighting out of the blue corner, the lanky boxer-puncher used his superior skills and length and reach to keep Usmanee at the end of his jab. He also landed a couple right hands for good measure. In the first two rounds Usmanee looked old, slow, vulnerable and outclassed.
The smile on Barthelemy’s face said it all.
But in round three Usmanee, fighting out of the red corner in black trunks with multi-colored trim, started making the necessary adjustments and had begun to close the gap. Some effective body work was slowing Barthelemy down. He was also moving well. He didn’t do enough to win the round, and hadn’t yet taken control of the fight, but Barthelemy’s smile was beginning to fade ever so slightly.
The fourth could have gone either way. Both fighters had their moments, and Barthelemy may have had more of them. But what looked like it was going to be a rout looked like a rout no longer. Barthelemy drew first blood from a clash of heads. Usmanee, however, was imposing his will, helped in no small part by Barthelemy’s gradual abandonment of his jab.
Usmanee took control of the fight in rounds five and six. He had all but nullified Barthelemy’s advantages in size. He was controlling the action, getting off first, and was outlanding his opponent. The puncher was outslugging the boxer, and the puncher’s punches were full of bad intentions and having the desired effect.
The next two rounds were all Usmanee. He was laying a lot of leather on his vulnerable opponent. Barthelemy’s defense was nullified by Usmanee’s pressure and beautifully timed punches. He also looked to be hurt on a few occasions.
Kid Blast woke from his trance in round nine. He managed to at least make a fight of it. But he was still fighting his opponent’s fight. He was squaring himself up, offering a bigger target than was necessary or wise, and Usmanee made the most of it.
Another clash of heads in the 10th drew more blood from Usmanee. But someone who survived one of the endless wars in Afghanistan wasn’t about to let a little blood curtail his objectives. Afghanis are born fighters. Ask the British. Ask the Russians. Ask Rances Barthelemy.
Barthelemy came on in the 11th. The clash of heads may have slightly dazed Usmanee. He walked into some shots he avoided in earlier rounds. It looked as though Barthelemy was making his move and was going to pocket the championship rounds and the fight.
But then the bell rang for the 12th and final round. Both fighters let it all hang out, but it looked like Barthelemy had about shot his wad. He was eating rights and lefts. He was falling into punches when he wasn’t retreating to the ropes. He landed a hard right in the final 30 seconds, but his legs were gone, he looked out on his feet.
CompuBox indicated that Barthelemy out-jabbed Usmanee 49 of 300 to 24 of 323. In the power punch department, Usmanee had the upper hand, landing 258 of 765 to 189 of 254 for Barthelemy. The punch totals were Usmanee 282 of 1088 for 26% and Barthelemy 238 of 824 for 29%.
While numbers don’t tell the whole story, ignoring imponderables like effective punching, it was an excellent fight which was about to be marred by less than excellent scoring.
It was a unanimous decision. Judge Ricardo Bays had it 115-113. Judges Valerie Dorsett and Richard Green both scored it 116-112, all for Barthelemy.
As soon as the scorecards were announced, to the disbelief of almost everyone, an outraged Teddy Atlas, true to form, made his displeasure known.
“It may be a new year, but it’s the same old bad judging,” he said. “It’s either incompetence or it’s corruption. That is disgraceful. Happy New Year! The same old disgraceful judging. Happy New Year. When are we going to have a National Commission? When are we going to have what other sports have? Dignity. Integrity. Honesty. Policing in this sport for these game warriors that put themselves on the line. When is the federal government going to step up and take it away from this corrupt system we have in boxing?”
One may be uncomfortable with Teddy’s style, but it’s impossible to second-guess his conclusions. The decision was disgraceful. But the feds won’t dirty their hands with boxing. They don’t care. And the congressmen who do care, or say they care, are too impotent or distracted to do anything about it. Atlas knows this. He’s also wary of the State’s motives. But he, like many of us, has grown weary of injustice after injustice that has made our sport a laughingstock.
Arash Usmanee deserves better.
And so does boxing.