Rau’shee Warren didn’t score the overwhelming victory he was seeking Saturday night in his 118-pound title rematch with Juan Carlos Payano, but the three-time U.S. Olympian did enough to earn his first world championship.
After waiting 10 months to get his second shot at the title, Rau’shee Warren dethroned Juan Carlos Payano in a majority decision at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion in a bout that was closely contested, but far less contentious than their first meeting.
Payano (17-1, 8 KOs) won a split decision last August in a bloody, physical, foul-filled contest, but it was Warren (14-1, 4 KOs) who controlled the first half of the rematch before holding on late to win by scores of 114-114 and 115-113 twice.
“This feels great; it's unbelievable,” said Warren, who collapsed onto the canvas in jubilation after the decision was read. “Payano came to fight, and he stayed active. My corner just told me I had to answer back, but I was comfortable that I had won the decision.
“It was a good fight, though. If he wants a rematch, we can do it again.”
Warren, the only boxer to represent the United States in three Olympics, became the first member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team to win a professional world championship.
The 29-year-old Cincinnati native established his right hook in the early rounds against Payano as he boxed from outside and used his superior quickness and reflexes to elude his fellow southpaw’s counter shots.
Payano, 32, was busier during the middle rounds, but Warren continued to box more effectively as he landed the crisper, cleaner punches from outside.
“We wanted to make him miss and make him pay. I definitely made him miss a lot,” Warren said. “He was just staying busy. I bobbed and weaved. I pressed him enough to where I could take over.
“My corner just kept telling me to work. I knew I was in control, but I just had to step on the pedal at the right time.”
Warren nearly stepped off the pedal too much late in the fight when Payano not only continued to outwork him, but also began to outland him, scoring with a series of right uppercuts in the ninth round to work his way back into the bout.
Warren seemed to be fading after Round 10, but he hurt Payano early in the 11th with a straight left that sent the champ to the ropes. Warren failed in his attempt to put Payano away during the round, but it was enough to hold off the Dominican champion’s late charge.
“I wasn't able to completely follow my game plan,” Payano said. “At moments I was able to do what we trained for, but not enough. I hurt my rib early in the first two rounds and it made it difficult to grab and breathe, but I take nothing away from him.
"I was courteous enough to offer the rematch right away, and I hope that I get reciprocated the same way. Rau'shee was pretty much the same as last time, but I fought his pace and I didn't follow my plan. I wasn't able to do what I wanted to do, and Rau'shee won the fight.”
Warren said he was willing to accommodate his opponent’s request and grow their rivalry into a trilogy.
"I want to take it to another level. A third fight could be really big,” Warren said. “I want Warren-Payano III in Cincinnati. If not, I'll go after all the other champions.”
For a complete overview of Payano vs Warren II, including the judges’ scorecards, visit our fight page.