In a rematch of one of 2017’s best and most controversial fights, Kiryl Relikh handed former two-division world champion Rances Barthelemy the first loss of his career with a wide unanimous decision victory to capture the vacant WBA Super Lightweight World Championship.
Relikh (22-2, 19 KOs) was the more active fighter and controlled the co-main event of the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast from the opening bell, throwing 1,237 total punches compared to just 494 for Barthelemy. Relikh, who many thought won their first matchup, consistently worked off his jab, connecting on 103 punches per round while Barthelemy landed an average of just 41.
While Barthelemy (26-1, 13 KOs) won a disputed and wide decision in their first bout there was no controversy in the judges’ scorecards in the rematch, which was scored 117-110 and 118-109 twice.
Relikh became just the third fighter from Belarus to win a world title while Barthelemy came up short in his bid to become the first Cuban to win a world title in three weight divisions.
“Last time I was not ready,” Relikh said. “I didn’t have proper preparation in the first fight but this time, with my new trainers, I was ready. I’m very happy. I’ve waited for this dream for 20 years. I’ve worked hard for this dream and now it’s mine.
"Coming in we were looking to box all the way. My jab has developed so much since the last fight. They probably thought that I would run out of gas like last time, but I trained like a champion this time. Everything was geared toward becoming champion and that's what we did tonight.”
Barthelemy, who picked up the pace a bit in the final three rounds, didn’t dispute the decision.
"My heart is broken because I came in to this fight trying to get that third world title,” Barthelemy said. “I have to admit defeat and say that Relikh deserved to win that fight, but I will be back.
“At this point, I have to look forward and put it behind me."