After participating in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, and notching 13 straight wins to start his pro career, bantamweight contender Rau’Shee Warren thought he was ready for a world title shot. And he was right — he was.
Unfortunately for Warren (13-1, 4 KOs), he lost a razor-thin split decision in a back-and-forth fight against WBA world titleholder Juan Carlos Payano (17-0, 8 KOs) in August.
Many ringside observers and fans at home felt that Warren had done enough to earn the victory. Judge Carlos Sucre agreed, scoring the bout 115-109 for the Cincinnati native. But judges Alex Levin and Thomas Nardone both saw it 113-111 for Payano, allowing the undefeated Domincan to retain his WBA strap.
One couldn’t help but feel sorry for the judges because so many rounds were close and very difficult to score. Complicating matters for the official scorers were a Warren 12th-round knockdown to factor in, plus point deductions issued by referee Frank Santore Jr. to both fighters.
Payano lost a point for hitting behind the head on a break in the third round. Warren lost two points in the ninth for what was deemed an intentional foul when he hit a downed Payano after a slip.
Payano was generally the aggressor, imploring roughhouse tactics while throwing punches in bunches. Warren was a little more calculated but struck accurately and with pop when he landed. The CompuBox numbers also showed it was a close fight.
— CompuBox (@CompuBox) August 3, 2015
The result can’t be considered a robbery, but Warren absolutely earned the right to think he won.
In fact, it’s kind of disappointing that The Ring Magazine doesn’t currently have Warren ranked in its top 10 at bantamweight. Payano is rated No. 2 by The Ring at 118 pounds, but Warren isn’t rated despite fighting Payano on even terms for 12 rounds.
Now, Warren seeks to even the score — and possibly set up a trilogy — if he can beat Payano in the rematch Saturday at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. The fight is the co-main event on the Premier Boxing Champions on NBC card featuring light heavyweights Andrzej Fonfara and Joe Smith Jr. in the headliner.
For Warren, he’ll want to use a wider variety of tricks on the inside when the fight gets sloppy in order to minimize the effectiveness of Payano’s swarming style. He’ll also need to simply up his work rate, period. Even though Warren out-landed Payano in the first fight, the judges were probably influenced by the sheer volume that Payano threw.
For Payano, he’ll need to outwork Warren once again, but he’ll also need to be wary of lunging in. He tends to come in with a flurry of punches, generally a bunch of big left hands. While it did help him dictate the style of the first fight, it also opened the door for Warren to land some very crisp counter shots.
For both men, they’ll have to avoid the dirty infractions that greatly affected the Payano-Warren I scorecards. If things get as grimy as they did in the first fight, a disqualification for either guy could be in play.
Fans are definitely going to want to tune in to NBC on Saturday to see two bantamweight southpaws at the top of their games in what is sure to be a high-level, evenly contested rematch.
Rau’Shee Warren was already prepared for the moment the first time around, but fell short; now he just needs the referee to raise his hand at the end of the fight.