MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Unbeaten Rances Barthelemy put on a boxing clinic for 12 full rounds in the first defense of his junior lightweight title on Saturday night.
But the lack of action and entertainment wasn't for the faint of heart.
Barthelemy (21-0, 12 KOs), a former Cuban amateur standout, outclassed Argentine veteran Fernando Saucedo from start to finish and was never in danger en route to a shutout decision at Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort and Casino. All three judges scored the fight 120-108.
"I thought I did well," Barthelemy said. "Obviously, there is always room to improve in certain spots. I hurt him good to the body, but I just wasn't able to close the show."
Barthelemy, 28, controlled the action with his jab and simply couldn't miss with his left hand, whether he threw his sidearm hook upstairs or dug deep to the body. Saucedo (52-6-3, 8 KOs) never stopped coming forward through, but had little success with his assortment of looping hooks.
"[Saucedo] is a veteran so I will give him credit as he was able to recover and get out of any rough spots," Barthelemy said. "It was a great learning experience. He was trying to catch me with looping shots and those are dangerous with lots of power on them. I needed to just outbox him and get out of here with the win."
The negative reaction on social media to the fight's lack of entertainment -- along with a large number of fans headed for the exits early -- did little to deter Barthelemy.
"Boxing is a style matchup. I'm used to banging out and putting on a war when I need to and I am used to boxing when necessary. If the fans feel like that, I apologize," he said.
Barthelemy entered the bout just three months removed from winning his world title by unanimous decision against Argenis Mendez. The fight was a rematch of their January bout, originally scored a second-round knockout for Barthelemy, but was later changed to a no contest because the finishing punch came after the bell.
"I'm going to sit down with my team and whatever [adviser] Al Haymon puts in front of me, that's who I will fight next," Barthelemy said. "Obviously the guy right now in the division who everyone talks about is Mikey Garcia, so that's the fight right there I would be most looking for."
Martirosyan outpoints Nelson
In an all-action battle between a pair of junior middleweight contenders, Vanes Martirosyan finished strong to defeat Willie Nelson in a competitive unanimous decision.
Martirosyan (35-1-1, 21 KOs), who fought with a heavy heart less than a week removed from the death of his promoter Dan Goossen, overcame a cut to his right eye in Round 4 to take home the victory by judges scores of 97-93 (twice) and 96-94.
"This has been a hard week and there was a lot of emotion going into this fight -- a lot of happiness and a lot of tears," said Martirosyan, who is trained by Goossen's brother Joe. "When I heard the news of [Goossen's death], so many things were going through my mind. I didn't know if I should fight. But nobody believed in me after I suffered my first loss except him.
"Dan believed in me. So I dedicated this fight to him. We love him and miss him."
Nelson, 27, had his moments throughout in a very evenly matched bout, using his jab and left hook to trade with Martirosyan in the center of the ring. The bout remained close until Round 8, when Martirosyan opened up a cut above the left eye of Nelson (23-2-1, 13 KOs) and appeared to turn up his intensity.
Martirosyan, 28, a native of Armenia who represented the United States at the 2004 Olympics, stepped on the gas pedal over the final two rounds and set an aggressive pace with lead right hands and uppercuts.
"In Round 8 I thought about Corrales-Castillo for some reason having Joe [Goossen] in my corner," Martirosyan said. "[Joe] told me I had to push the last couple of rounds so I pushed myself. This fight is so big for me in my career. A loss here was going to take me not one step back but three steps back."
Nelson, 27, suffered the second defeat of his career and the first since a 2011 decision loss to Vincent Arroyo.
"Nelson showed a lot of heart and I told him I would be willing to give him a rematch down the road," Martirosyan said. "He is a great fighter and showed a lot of heart."
Karpency scores upset of Dawson
Chad Dawson was in shape for his 10-round return against Tommy Karpency. But the former light heavyweight champion looked far from the fighter he once was.
After suffering a shoulder injury in Round 3, Dawson was unable to use his left hand for the majority of the fight and went on to lose by split decision. All three judges scored the fight 96-94. ESPN.com scored the bout 97-93 for Karpency.
Karpency (24-4-1, 14 KOs), a native of Adah, Pennsylvania, landed the telling blows throughout in this battle of southpaws, with a series of clean counter shots with his left hand.
"It was a close fight," Karpency said. "But I thought I did enough to win."
Dawson (32-4, 18 KOs), who came in at a career-high of 182 pounds in his last bout against George Blades in June, was down to 173 pounds on Saturday. But he pawed with his jab throughout and spent a good portion of the fight backpedaling.
Despite a handful of close rounds, the judges ultimately favored Karpency's harder shots, much to the dismay of Dawson.
"This is bulls---," Dawson said. "I hurt my shoulder and fought with one arm from the third round on. I still landed more jabs than he landed total punches. This is bulls---."
Dawson, 32, has lost three of his past four, including knockout losses to super middleweight champion Andre Ward in September 2012 and to current 175-pound champion Adonis Stevenson last June, when Dawson, a native of New Haven, Connecticut, relinquished his belt.
Karpency, 28, scored the biggest victory of his career to date. Three of his four losses have come against good competition in Karo Murat, Nathan Cleverly and Andrzej Fonfara.