As expected, the IBF on Friday ordered a rematch between junior lightweight titleholder Argenis Mendez and mandatory challenger Rances Barthelemy, one day after the result of their controversial fight was overturned.
Mendez made the second defense of his 130-pound world title against Barthelemy on Jan. 3 at the Target Center in Minneapolis and got dropped late in the second round, then knocked out moments later. Although Barthelemy's knockout punches were thrown just after the bell rang to end the round -- an accidental foul -- referee Pete Podgorski counted Mendez out and declared Barthelemy the winner and new titleholder.
Mendez (21-2-1, 11 KOs) appealed the decision to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, which oversees the Office of Combative Sports that handles day-to-day regulation of combat sports in the state. On Thursday, the agency, after reviewing the fight video and consulting with the referee, changed the result from a knockout win for Barthelemy (19-0, 12 KOs) to a no decision.
Once the result of the fight was changed, the title reverted to Mendez, and the IBF ordered a rematch.
"The promoters for both fighters have been notified and have until March 3, 2014 to reach an agreement [for a rematch]," the IBF said in a statement. "If they are unable to reach an agreement by then, the IBF will call for a purse bid to determine who will promote the bout."
Earlier Friday, before the rematch order was announced, Barthelemy voiced his disgust at Minnesota's decision to change the result but said he had no problem fighting Mendez again.
"First off, I could not disagree more," Barthelemy said through a translator. "This decision to take away my title is a terrible one. The referee did not call a foul that night, so how can a commissioner overrule him by watching TV weeks later? I am better, stronger and more talented than him, and I knocked him out. Now I have to do it again.
"If they put me in the ring with Mendez again, I will hurt him again. They haven't done him any favors by making him fight me again. His legs were going weak with every punch I even touched him with. And now I know exactly how to get to him, so it'll be even worse next time. I was glad he survived to fight another day, but he is making a mistake fighting me again."
Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules, who co-promotes Barthelemy, was upset by the ruling but also willing to make the rematch.
"I think my fighter is going to knock Mendez out again," Margules said. "I think it's great that the IBF ordered a rematch and doing the best they can under the circumstances. The Mendez side is talking like they're going make the rematch with us. They say they want to do the rematch and do it in Minnesota, of all places. We don't care. We'll fight them anywhere, and we'll do it tomorrow. My fighter asked me [Friday], 'How quickly we can get back in the ring?'"
Mendez's camp did not respond to messages for comment.