Rances Barthelemy won a junior lightweight world title in 2014, made one dominant defense and then vacated the belt when it became increasingly difficult for him to make 130 pounds.
Now he can win a second world title when he faces Denis Shafikov in the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions card on Friday night (Spike, 9 ET/PT) at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
They will be fighting for the 135-pound belt stripped from Mickey Bey (21-1, 10 KOs) for his refusal to fight mandatory challenger Shafikov. Ironically, Bey, of Cleveland, will be fighting for the first time since winning the belt 15 months ago when he faces Philadelphia’s Naim Nelson (12-0, 1 KO) in an untelevised undercard bout.
"Capturing a world title at lightweight will be a great accomplishment for my career,” said Barthelemy, a Cuban defector fighting out of Las Vegas. “When an opportunity like this comes your way, you have to seize the moment to be great. That's what I plan to do against Shafikov. The ultimate goal is to win as many world championships as possible in multiple weight classes."
Barthelemy (23-0, 13 KOs), 29, said he is familiar with the rough and rugged Shafikov and expects a hard fight.
"This is a very difficult fight, one that I am fully prepared to win,” Barthelemy said. “We are both southpaws so it will be very interesting to see how the fight plays out. I'm going to fight my style and dictate the pace. He throws a lot of punches in combinations, something I'll have to be ready for. This will not be a boring fight. The fans can expect to see me throw a lot of big shots.
"It's been a smooth camp so far. I've sparred 12 rounds with multiple sparring partners on a few different occasions. I'm very sharp right now and my timing is right where I want it to be. My weight is good and I'm ready to go the distance if I have too."
Shafikov (36-1-1, 19 KOs), 30, of Russia, is getting his second opportunity to fight for a world title. He has won three fights in a row since losing a decision challenging then-titleholder Miguel Vazquez in February 2014 in Macau, China.
In the co-feature, 22-year-old Russian Murat Gassiev (22-0, 16 KOs) will face Isiah Thomas (15-0, 6 KOs), 26, of Detroit, in a cruiserweight world title eliminator with the winner to receive a mandatory shot at titleholder Victor Emilio Ramirez (22-2-1, 17 KOs) of Argentina.
Friday’s three-hour telecast is also scheduled to feature two quality prospects, junior middleweight Chris Pearson and lightweight Gervonta “Tank” Davis.
Pearson (13-0, 10 KOs), 25, of Dayton, Ohio, will open the card in an eight-round bout against Eric Walker (11-0, 6 KOs), 22, of Plaquemine, Louisiana. Davis (13-0, 12 KOs), a 21-year-old from Baltimore, will take on Luis Sanchez (17-4-1, 5 KOs), 23, of Mexico, in a 10-rounder.
In another untelevised fight, former junior middleweight titlist Ishe Smith (27-8, 12 KOs), 37, of Las Vegas, will face Tommy Rainone (24-6-1, 5 KOs), 35, of Plainview, New York.