Unbeaten Rances Barthelemy has a plan for domination that involves one weight class at a time.
"My ultimate goal in the future is to be world champion in four or five weight divisions," Barthelemy said, through a translator. "I want to move all the way up to 154, if possible."
Where: Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, NevadaWhen: FridayTV: PBC on Spike, 9 ET/PT
Barthelemy (23-0, 13 KOs), a former junior lightweight titlist and Cuban amateur standout, moved up two weight classes to junior welterweight in June when he soundly outpointed veteran Antonio DeMarco, sending him into a brief retirement.
But he plans on making a brief pit stop at lightweight on Friday when he challenges Russia's Denis Shafikov (36-1-1, 19 KOs) for his 135-pound title. The Premier Boxing Champions main event takes place at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET/PT, Spike TV).
Barthelemy, 29, recently spoke with ESPN.com about his evolving style and what his goals are for 2016.
In your last fight against DeMarco, you were more offensive-minded than we had previously seen. What style can we expect to see from you moving forward?
I've never had a problem with coming forward and throwing punches. I like to adapt to whatever the situation calls for. When I step into the ring and get a feel for how the fight is going, I like to adapt. I will defend when I have to defend, box when I have to box and throw punches when it's time to stand there and fight. I don't believe I'm going to have an issue doing that again. I've always had that style where I can switch it up between defense and offense.
Why do you believe many big-name fighters who have come from the same Cuban amateur system as you have been more reluctant to let their hands go as professionals?
The Cuban boxing system works more similar to the Olympic system which is based on points and accumulated points. Part of the reason that Cuban fighters struggle is because of the transition. In the amateur program in Cuba, you are always taught fundamentally to accumulate punches and always be on your defensive stand. You don't really come forward and throw a lot of punches. Instead, you just avoid getting hit. A lot of fighters struggle with that because here in the States, the style of fighting is a lot different. People focus a lot more on going to the body and coming forward and throwing more punches than avoiding getting hit. That's the biggest issue, that fundamentally you are raised that way in the amateur program.
You certainly opened a lot of eyes against DeMarco as to how explosive you can be. How would you grade that performance?
I was actually really surprised with my performance. I was able to find my rhythm so fast. I was expecting a different fight from DeMarco because I know that he is a great fighter and a warrior. He goes in head to head with a lot of fighters he steps into the ring with. It's kind of telling, based on [DeMarco's] last fight with Omar Figueroa Jr., seeing how he went to war with him and even sent him to the hospital. So, when I stepped into the ring with [DeMarco], I was expecting a much different fight and was surprised how easy it was to get into a rhythm. I was very comfortable in there and I was able to set the pace and pretty much dominate how it turned out. I give a lot of credit to my training camp and the training that I'm doing alongside my trainer Ismael Salas.
What type of fight are you expecting against Shafikov?
I plan on controlling the distance. I do expect Shafikov to come with very natural abilities and strong fundamentals that I have seen him present during fights. I'm expecting that. He has a lot of natural ability so I'm looking for that. As far as the style of the fight, I'm expecting to go in there and find my rhythm. I need to keep my distance and foreshadow what I do by keeping that distance. He is going to shadow me and work the body and it's something that I'm expecting.
Considering the big names at 140 and 147 pounds under the PBC banner, what name are you targeting for a big fight in 2016 if you get past Shafikov?
In the past I have heard rumors that my name was in the top three of possible opponents for Adrien Broner. I also heard my name thrown around to be up against Omar Figueroa. Those were two names I was kind of thinking about or maybe considering possible opportunities in the future. But as of now I have stopped thinking about that in order to focus on Shafikov and what is in front of me. After Friday, I'll start thinking about what's next.
You have talked about your goal of winning titles in multiple divisions. But how important is for you to gain the kind of critical respect that comes with being ranked among the pound-for-pound best by the American media?
I'm very, very confident in my ability, alongside my trainer Ismael Salas. He discovered a lot of things I didn't even know I had within me and the kind of things that other trainers were unable to pull out of me. I'm very confident and comfortable with his training camp and Salas has been telling me that he gives me until the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017 to be named among the top list of pound-for-pound. That is my goal.
You have made some serious strides in your haircut game. Will we see the return of another flashy cut for this fight?
Yes, definitely. It's something that has kind of become a tradition now. Fans have actually started to ask me about my haircut and asked me to continue to do it so I'm going to switch it up again.