Calling it a barnburner would be a disservice to the two tons of napalm Rau’shee Warren and Juan Carlos Payano dropped on the nearest grain silo.
Warren and Payano weren’t just fighting in a phone booth Sunday night at Full Sail Live in Winter Park, Florida, they may as well have been fighting inside a coffin. The two undefeated repeat Olympians hammered away at each other like their lives depended on it, as if losing that “0” was worse than getting lowered into the ground.
In the end, only one could walk away unbeaten, though. That honor went to Juan Carlos Payano (17-0, 8 KOs) who slipped through a narrow split decision on two 113-111 cards to Rau'shee Warren’s (13-1, 4 KOs) lone 115-109 tally.
Longtime right winger Pat Verbeek earned himself the nickname “Little Ball of Hate” as a New York Ranger in 1995. If ever a moniker needed to migrate from the rink to the ring, it’s that one in regard to Payano.
The former Dominican Republic Olympian was all over Warren like a $20 Brooks Brothers knockoff. Not that Warren seemed to mind. The Athens, Beijing and London Games vet hammered away in kind in a fight that was as much bar brawl as it was boxing match.
In the third, referee Frank Santore took a point from Payano for repeatedly hitting Warren in the back. In the fourth, Warren sent Payano reeling with an unintentional low blow. Payano writhed on the canvas, at one point rolling under the ropes and onto the apron, while he recovered. Then in the ninth, Warren wrestled Payano to the ground and threw a shot while he was down. Santore ruled it an intentional foul and took two points from Warren over fervent protests from the Cincinnati-born fighter.
It proved to be a difference-maker.
"The one judge had it heavily for me, so I don't know what was up with the others,” Warren said. “I think the point deductions really hurt me. [Payano] said I hit him while he was down and it cost me.”
Warren wasted no time getting back to work. He pounded at a cut over Payano’s right eye that bled so badly Santore called time and had the ring doctor determine whether or not Payano could continue.
The pressure paid off in the 12th when Warren finally put Payano down with two big rights in quick succession. But the relentless Dominican channeled his inner Bruce Lee and did a kickflip up off the mat to get back to his feet before Santore counted three.
“Every now and then he hit me with something that affected me, but I feel good,” Payano said.
Fellow Cincinnatian Adrien Broner, who admitted on the Bounce TV broadcast that he took his first beating from Warren as kids just learning to spar in the gym, was there to offer some consolation to Warren. Not that he needed it.
"I want a rematch,” Warren said. “I'll be back strong."
In earlier action, John Jackson picked up a unanimous decision over Dennis Laurente, while Jorge Cota Lugo got the nod from all three judges in a wildly entertaining high-energy tilt against Yudel Jhonson in a four-man 154-pound tournament. Jackson and Cota Lugo will meet in the finals on a date to be determined.