When Juan Carlos Payano defended his 118-pound world title last year against Rau’shee Warren, the 12-round blood-and-guts battle of southpaws was a bit too much for his oldest son to withstand.
While Payano eked out a split decision to retain his crown, the Dominican Republic native was knocked down in the final round and suffered heavy damage over both eyes. Taking the whole thing in from ringside that August night in Winter Park, Florida, was Payano’s wife, Glennys, and the couple’s three sons, who were watching their father ply his craft for the first time.
“My wife had seen me fight back home. She understands the risks, but she can never seem to come to terms with it, although she knew that I would be all right and that I trained hard for the fight,” Payano said. “The kids were the ones who found it tough to watch.
“One of the younger ones fell asleep, but the older one, Carlos, was a little traumatized. He was worried about whether I would be able to see out of my eye, and he urged me to go back to school to become a doctor. I don’t think that, moving forward, I’ll bring the kids if I can help it.”
To that point, Juan Carlos Payano (17-0, 8 KOs) won’t have his family nearby Saturday night when he defends his title in a rematch with Rau’shee Warren (13-1, 4 KOs) at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT). But it’s not exactly by design. Instead, the family is waiting to join Payano soon in his adopted hometown of Miami as permanent residents, with the hopes of eventually becoming U.S. citizens.
“They’re in the midst of getting the family approved to be documented to come over,” said Herman Caicedo, Payano’s trainer. “No one can travel until the residency is completed, but it’s approved.
"We’re looking for Juan Carlos to be united with his family by August, but they’re not able to come for this fight.”
Payano grew up poor in the town of La Vega as the youngest of eight children, but found an outlet in boxing at an early age as he developed into an amateur standout. The 5-foot-5 southpaw represented the Dominican Republic in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics before turning professional in 2010.
After his fourth pro fight, Payano moved to Miami in October 2010, intent on becoming a world champion and building a better life for his family, even if it meant separating from them to do so.
Payano, 32, realized the first part of his ambition in September 2014 when he won a technical decision to dethrone longtime 118-pound champion Anselmo Moreno, who was seeking his 13th consecutive title defense. In that fight, Payano was cut over his right eye from an accidental headbutt in Round 2, and won on the scorecards when the ringside doctor said he was unable to continue after the sixth round.
Although he has achieved his dream in the ring, Payano doesn’t expect his sons to follow in his footsteps, especially after they got a firsthand look at their father’s chosen profession in his last fight.
“None of my boys wants to be a professional fighter, nor do I want them to be,” said Payano, who will be defending his title Saturday for the second time. “They’re brainiac children anyway, who are more into equations and politics. They’re good kids, and they definitely want nothing to do with fighting.”
For a complete look at Payano vs Warren, visit our fight page.