No heavyweights in ‘Friday Night Fights’

But the smaller guys put on a good show


By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer



Downtown Minneapolis was the site where ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” made its season debut last week. “This city has a lot of boxing history,” said Warriors Boxing Promotions COO Luis DeCubas at the January 2 pre-fight press conference at a downtown Minneapolis restaurant.

“Tonight is a very special night,” noted former KFAN host Henry Lake, now hosting a daily midday show on a Kansas City sports station while sitting in one of those VIP ringside seats during the January 3 eight-bout card, which featured several local boxers.

“A ‘W’ is a ‘W,’” declared Minneapolis welterweight Javantae Starks, who improved to 8-0 after his split-decision win over previously unbeaten Limberth Ponce of Rock Island, Ill. “I didn’t understand the split decision at all,” added Starks, who knocked down Ponce early in their six-round fight.

“I caught him with a left hook after a right hand. I wanted to continue to do it, but it didn’t come out as smoothly as I wanted. He [Ponce] took some good shots, got up and finished the fight.”

Starks told the MSR that he hadn’t fought since last summer and admits he had some rust as he entered the ring for the first time in nearly six months. “I want to be in the ring more so when I hit the guy, I can finish right

Mike Tyson, center, with fighters Rances Barthelemy (l) and Argenis Mendez, who contended for the Junior Lightweight  Championship Photos by Jamal Denman
Mike Tyson, center, with fighters Rances Barthelemy (l) and Argenis Mendez, who contended for the Junior Lightweight
Photos by Jamal Denman

away,” he said.

The two main televised events, however, provided the night’s controversial finishes.

New IBF Junior Lightweight Champion Rances Barthelemy is now unbeaten after 20 fights after a second-round KO over former champion Argenis Mendez. The controversy arose because many observers believed he knocked out Mendez after the bell to end the round.

This came after the Caleb Truax-Ossie Duran 10-round middleweight bout — all three judges each scored the fight 95-95, ending it in a draw. Truax hails from Osseo, and Duran, originally from Ghana, now lives in New Jersey. As expected, the decision wasn’t entirely well received by the pro-Truax crowd.

“The fight could’ve gone either way,” observed Lake. “It was a tough fight to judge.”

“My initial reaction was [that] Caleb got robbed,” added Marciano of Black Music America, one of a handful of Blacks in the ringside media section. “He [Duran] has great defense, and that’s what kept him in the fight. He had a hard head, and [Truax] couldn’t knock him out — he blocked a lot of punches.”

The MSR afterwards talked to both fighters in their respective dressing rooms. “The game plan was to use my jab and back him up,” explained Truax, now 23-1-2. “I got away from the jab and didn’t push him back far enough, and got to the body like I wanted to. I lost some points I should’ve won. Certainly I would’ve liked to get a win and be impressive on TV, but I’ll learn and get better from it.”

“My game plan was to just keep working him down — use my jab on him,” noted Duran (28-11-3). “I had him a couple of times. I was very surprised, because I thought I won the fight.”

Last week’s fights were co-produced by Mike Tyson, whose Iron Mike Productions has Mendez among his stable of fighters.

“I grew up watching him,” admitted Truax of the former heavyweight champ. “To have a living legend watching me and saying things about me [at the pre-fight press conference] was kind of surreal.”

[See this week’s front page for an MSR one-on-one interview with Tyson.]

Overall, it was a pretty good night of boxing. Although some argue that boxing won’t regain its former luster until a “great heavyweight” emerges, Lake would rather not go down that road. “I would like to see boxing continue to build some steam and become what it used to be,” he said. [However], let’s go ahead and appreciate the guys who are fighting [in the lower weight divisions].

“Caleb Truax is a young kid with a bright future. He really is going to put Minnesota boxing on the map,” Lake concluded.


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