Argenis Mendez gets title back

Argenis Mendez is getting back his junior lightweight world title.

In a written decision released Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry overturned the result of Mendez's controversial second-round knockout loss to Rances Barthelemy on Jan. 3 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, changing the result of the 130-pound title bout to a no decision.

With the decision changed, the IBF, which sanctioned the fight for its belt, will return the title to Mendez, although the IBF told ESPN.com that it likely will order an immediate rematch.

"This a great day for boxing. The decision proves there is justice and integrity in the sport," Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight champion and Mendez's promoter, said in a statement to ESPN.com.

The controversy stemmed from the brutal end of the fight in which Barthelemy, who had dominated the first two rounds and knocked Mendez down late in the second round, fired multiple punches after the bell rang to end the round, knocking out Mendez. Referee Pete Podgorski did not rule a foul -- although punching after the bell is illegal -- and counted Mendez out. Barthelemy, the mandatory challenger, was awarded the knockout victory and the title.

However, Mendez appealed the decision based on the Association of Boxing Commissions' unified rules. The rules, which govern all world title bouts in the United States, say that "if an accidental foul causes an injury severe enough for the referee to stop the bout immediately, the bout will result in a no decision if stopped before four completed rounds."

Further, the rules specify that "a blow that strikes a boxer after the sounding of the bell is deemed to be a foul that the referee will determine if it was accidental or intentional."

Mendez, who was making his second title defense, did not claim that Barthelemy's punches -- at least two of which were after the bell -- were on purpose.

Ken B. Peterson, Minnesota's commissioner of the department of labor and industry, agreed. He wrote in his ruling, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com, that he had reviewed video of the fight -- which was nationally televised on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" -- and the materials submitted by attorneys for both sides.

"In addition, I have considered input provided by referee Peter Podgorski and consulted with an ad hoc committee of the Minnesota Combative Sports Advisory Council regarding this grievance," Peterson wrote. "My decision in this case is that the fight will be ruled a no decision."

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry oversees the Office of Combative Sports, which handles the day-to-day regulation of combat sports in the state.

Peterson further wrote, "The referee's ruling that Mr. Mendez had been legally knocked out was inadvertent through what can only be considered human error. Referee Podgorski acknowledges that he was getting into position, but the bell sounded while he was circling so his decision was based upon what he could hear and see at the time.

"The video replay presented by both parties as evidence clearly shows the knockout punch was after the bell had sounded. No evidence was presented that Mr. Barthelemy intentionally threw foul punches. The punches were an accidental foul which caused the knockout that ended the fight."

"I think this is the right result. You never know until the decision comes down how it will go," attorney Patrick English, who represents Mendez, told ESPN.com. "It looks as though they consulted the referee, which I am pleased to have seen."

Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules, who promotes Barthelemy and is also an attorney, said they plan to appeal the decision. He has 30 days to file the appeal.

"I think they were wrong because the referee did not call a foul and my understanding of the rules is the only person who can call a foul is the referee," Margules said. "He is the only person who can say it's a foul, so it's a bad interpretation of the rules."

However, Peterson addressed that in his ruling.

"The referee is the arbiter of what is occurring in the ring during a boxing contest," Peterson wrote. "However, in making these decisions, a referee cannot violate the clear meaning and intent of any of the rules. Mr. Barthelemy argues that the referee is the sole decision maker and cannot be overruled by the commissioner even when the rules have been violated. Agreement with this argument would be an invitation to potential widespread misconduct and is in direct conflict with the law."

The record of the boxers' will reflect the change in the result. Mendez, 27, a native of the Dominican Republic living in Yonkers, N.Y., is 21-2-1 with 11 knockouts. Barthelemy, 27, a Cuban defector living in Miami, is 19-0, 12 KOs.