By Marc Livitz at ringside in San Antonio, TX: Saturday was a different story compared to May of last year. This time, Rances Barthelemy had no answer for the nonstop output thrown at him by Kiryl Relikh as they met in a rematch for the vacant WBA junior welterweight title at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.
Barthelemy (26-1, 13 KO’s) was on the move from the opening bell, though Relikh snapped his left jab as he gave pursuit. Kiryl tried hard to sneak in body shots directly under his Cuban opponent’s elbows. Rances kept a high guard when the second commenced as his adversary from Belarus continued to look to establish the jab. The chances he took began to pay off later in the round, as he managed to land a few shots to the face and a hook lower to the ribs. Again in the third as was seen so far, “Kid Blast” Barthelemy moved yet neither answered nor countered as Relikh double and tripled his left hook. To this point, Kiryl Relikh appeared to have three rounds in the bag.
Rances showed more signs of life in the next two rounds. He looked to move in after every few jabs from his Minsk-based opponent. Barthelemy landed his best shot of the contest midway through the fifth by way of a fine left hook. In the sixth, each fighter took a greater initiative as Rances went more to the body and Relikh (22-2, 19 KO’s) continued to push away towards head shots. The Cuban fighter couldn’t decide whether to fight traditional or southpaw, which may have been clear signs of frustration. The bout was likely a considerably tougher challenge than expected. This basically was the story of the sixth round. Relikh did as he’d done. He was in the driver’s seat.
Barthelemy was finally deducted one point for low blows near the end of round seven. Later on in the eighth for a few moments, he simply stopped throwing. The crowd was close to silent on into round nine. Relikh jabbed away while his Cuban opponent looked for the one shot to get his attention. The championship rounds remained and unless the judges saw matters in a completely different light, Barthelemy would need a knockout to win. Rances tried throwing quick fire combinations at Kiryl, who would gently smile and answer with punches to the face.
The last two rounds were much of the same pattern. Barthelemy pawed away with his own jab while would Relikh would ignore the attempts. They met to touch gloves to begin the twelfth. Kiryl Relikh looked as energized as he had more than thirty minutes earlier. Just as the wood clacked to signal ten seconds to go, the Belarusian was caught with another low blow. The bell sounded and he ran a triumphant circle in the ring. The judges would decide.
Alfredo Polanco and Cesar Ramos each scored the 118-109, while Rafael Ramos saw it at 117-110. Kiryl Relikh of Minsk, Belarus is now the WBA junior welterweight world champion. His efforts clearly deserved the result tonight.
“Last time, I wasn’t ready with my preparations but this time, I did it with my new trainers,” the victorious Relikh said afterwards. “I’m very happy because I worked hard for this dream over the last twenty years. It was important for me to be psychologically ready this time.”
“I felt tight today and he had a much better output,” Barthelemy admitted. “He hits like a tank.”