When Argenis Mendez won a junior lightweight world title in March, he did it by scoring a fourth-round knockout in a rematch with Juan Carlos Salgado. When Mendez made his first defense on Aug. 23, the fight went the distance and he retained the belt via unpopular majority draw against Arash Usmanee.
Headed into his second defense, Mendez said he is determined not to leave the result in the hands of the judges this time when he faces mandatory challenger Rances Barthelemy in the main event of this week’s season debut of “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2, 9 ET) at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
“I definitely learned that when you're in the ring you have to give it your all. Sometimes what you and your corner think isn't what is going through the judges' minds,” Mendez said, referring to the Usmanee bout. “Honestly, I don't know what fight the judges saw. There was no way that bout was a draw.
“Unfortunately, that fight wasn't the first time this has happened to me. I've been robbed twice before, once in Denver [in an eight-round decision loss to Jaime Sandoval in 2008], and the other time in Mexico [in the first fight with Salgado in 2011]. I knocked both guys down during our fights. Now, I'm more determined to get in there and be more aggressive to make sure there is no doubt that I am the winner. I'm definitely not going to leave it to the judges. I know for sure that I'm going home with my title.”
Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KOs), 27, a native of the Dominican Republic fighting out of Brooklyn, N.Y., will be fighting with trainer John David Jackson in his corner for the first time. Jackson is very familiar with Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs), 27, a native of Cuba living in Miami. Jackson used to train Barthelemy, who scored the title shot by winning two elimination bouts with Jackson in his corner.
The first one was a highly controversial decision against Usmanee last January, followed by a second-round knockout of Fahsai Sakkreerin in June, also in Minneapolis.
“[Jackson has] definitely been teaching me how to be more aggressive, throwing more punches and improving my power,” Mendez said. “He's great strategizing and together we have worked out a great plan for this upcoming fight. We already have the blueprint. My job is to go out there [on Friday] and execute.”
In the scheduled 10-round co-feature of the card, co-promoted by former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson’s Iron Mike Productions (with Tyson expected ringside), Minnesota middleweight Caleb Truax (23-1-1, 14 KOs), whose only loss came to former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, faces late substitute Ossie Duran (28-11-2, 11 KOs), 36, a native of Ghana living in Paterson, N.J. Truax, 30, has won five fights in a row since the points loss to Taylor in April 2012, including a sixth-round knockout of Donovan George.
“It means a lot to be fighting at home in front of family and friends,” Truax said. “My fight is going to be a battle against an opponent who wants nothing more than to make a name for himself. I will be ready for anything he has to offer.”