Rances Barthelemy is celebrating Father's Day in a boxing ring, doing what he loves before an audience on national television. It is an opportunity that can take his career to another level. He knows his wife and daughter will be watching him. He is hoping his father also can watch.
Barthelemy, 28, lives in Las Vegas. His father, Emilio, still is in Cuba. With limited resources available to many of his family and friends in Matanzas, he doesn't know if, or when, his father will see him fight again.
"Father's Day is very special to me because of my wife and daughter, who are my world," said Barthelemy. "My father was always there for me and my brothers. He got us into the sport of boxing. When I left Cuba it was very difficult for me because me and my dad were very close. I love him very much and I want to wish him a happy Father's Day as well."
On Sunday, Barthelemy (22-0, 13 KOs) fights former lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco (31-4-1, 23 KOs), in the main event of the Premier Boxing Champions card on CBS. The telecast begins at 4 p.m. ET from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Barthelemy vacated his IBF junior lightweight title and moved up to lightweight for this bout.
"I'm feeling good moving up in weight," Barthelemy said. "Everybody knows Antonio DeMarco is a very, very tough fighter. He's one of the best I've ever fought. His record who he has faced proves that. He's experienced, but so am I."
Barthelemy is the younger brother of Yan Barthelemy, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Cuba who defected in 2006. Rances estimated that he attempted to defect 38 times before successfully completing his journey - via speedboat to Miami - seven years ago. With diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States easing, he is hoping other Cuban athletes no longer struggle to pursue their dreams.
"It is an amazing moment in history," Barthelemy said through translator and assistant trainer Carlos De Leon Jr. "Something I never thought that I would see happen in my lifetime. I have been able to live my dream in boxing and maybe this will make it easier for other boxers."
Barthelemy was asked if he would one day like to return to Cuba to fight.
"It would be a dream come true," he said. "We would put on a great fight for all my family and my friends. I would love for that to happen."
He sees it as a gift that he would be able to give his father.
"I remember when we were little, me and my brothers would take my father out to breakfast on Father's Day," he said. "It was a very special time and we all enjoyed the moment. Fighting for him in Cuba would be a great moment that I could share with him."