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Rances Barthelemy wins IBF lightweight title with competitive decision over Denis Shafikov

The unbeaten Cuban had won and defended the super featherweight belt before moving up to 135.

Patrick Stumberg is a freelance writer for SB Nation, first joining the network in 2011 before linking up with Bad Left Hook in 2015.

Despite a spotty history, entertainment-wise, Rances Barthelemy put on a good show against the aggressive Denis Shafikov, dueling the Russian for nine rounds before taking over with accurate power-punching.

Whether by Barthelemy's design or not, the shorter Shafikov (36-2-1, 19 KO) consistently found his way inside, where the two fighters went at it with solid body worth and thumping shots to the head. Barthelemy (24-0, 13 KO) in particular found success with his uppercut while Shafikov landed some quality right hooks and straight lefts. Up until the ninth or tenth round, the fight was more or less impossible to score.

Then Barthelemy apparently decided Shafikov had had his fun. Dropping his hands, he showcased previously-absent footwork and drilled Shafikov with left hands, tying the Russian up whenever he got the idea to retaliate. The strong finish paid dividends, as he took the unanimous decision on two reasonable scores of 116-112 and one bonkers 119-109 score. Bad Left Hook had it 114-114 with plenty of swing rounds.

With the win, Barthelemy earns the IBF belt vacated by Mickey Bey, his second in as many weight classes. Shafikov has now come up short twice in world title fights, but he put in a solid performance and remains among the division elite.

The co-feature between cruiserweights Murat Gassiev and Isiah Thomas was just getting interesting when it came to an abrupt and bizarre end. After two rounds of Thomas (15-0, 6 KO) repeatedly potshotting the heavy-hitting Gassiev (22-0, 16 KO) with quick jabs and stiff left hands, the Russian found increasing success cutting off the ring and doing work to the body against the ropes.

At the end of the round, Gassiev connected with a hard overhand right. After the bell rang but before Jay Nady could physically separate them, he followed up with a 1-2 that had Thomas staggering to his corner like he was three sheets to the wind. The doctor and Thomas' corner reported that Thomas was not fit to continue. Since they had not completed four rounds and the foul was deemed unintentional, this resulted in a No Contest.

Disappointing, but they're both young. Hopefully they can put together a rematch in the near-future.

In super welterweight action, unbeatens Eric Walker and Chris Pearson put on a good old-fashioned no-frills brawl over the course of eight rounds, Walker eventually taking the unanimous decision.

Walker's volume was simply too much as he immediately went to work with heavy combinations. Pearson (13-1, 10 KO) simply gave his man too much room to work, covering up instead of taking advantage of the massive openings Walker (12-0, 7 KO)  gave him.

Despite nearly getting stopped in the fourth, Davis seemed poised to turn the tables with cleaner punches, but never managed to hurt Walker in return even when the latter started to tire and didn't take more than two rounds on any of the judges' scorecards.

Both of these guys have a whole lot of holes to patch up if they ever want to be contenders, but I wouldn't object to seeing them again.

Lightweight Gervonta Davis, much-hyped by Floyd Mayweather, had a solid performance in the opening bout as he stopped the very tough Luis Sanchez in nine. From the opening bell, Davis (14-0, 13 KO) landed heavy counters and solid combinations to the head and body while Sanchez (17-4-1, 5 KO) slung wide shots in return.

Around the midway point, Davis' output appeared to be on the decline, but Sanchez repeatedly leading with his head seemed to piss him off something fierce. Davis finally got him to the mat in the eighth round with a pair of short uppercuts, then sent him down for good in the ninth with a counter left off of a Sanchez jab.

Davis looked damn good for being just 21. Certainly a prospect worth watching.

For quick results and round-by-round coverage of the event, click here.

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