After Juan Carlos Payano edged Rau’shee Warren in a split decision last August to retain his 118-pound world title, either man could've make a valid argument that he won the fight. Heading into their rematch, both boxers are seeking a more definitive conclusion.
Payano will once again defend his title against Warren when the southpaws clash Saturday night at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).
In the first meeting, Payano (17-0, 8 KOs) received winning scores of 113-111 from two of the judges, while the third gave Warren (13-1, 4 KOs) a 115-109 advantage. It was a physical, foul-filled bout in which referee Frank Santore deducted one point from Payano in the third round for rabbit punching and two points from Warren in the ninth for an intentional foul.
Rau’shee Warren, 29, still believes he won the first fight, especially after flooring Payano in the 12th round for the only knockdown. Now the three-time U.S. Olympian, who weighed in at 117 pounds Friday, is looking to leave no doubt in the rematch.
“I’m going to pick up where I left off in the last fight,” Warren said. “I hope he’s ready like I’m going to be ready, because I’m going for the knockout and I don’t think it’s going to last 12 rounds.”
Juan Carlos Payano, 32, is making his second defense of the title he won by dethroning longtime champion Anselmo Moreno in September 2014. Even though he emerged victorious in his first meeting with Warren, the Dominican Republic native vows to make a stronger statement Saturday.
“Without a doubt, my plan is to beat him down and knock him out,” said Payano, who hit the scale at 117.2 pounds Friday. “Whether it happens in the first round or the 12th, I’m going to knock out Rau’shee Warren. There is no alternative than to end this fight by knockout and remove all doubt who the real champion is.”
Last summer's bout was an action-packed slugfest in which the fighters often stood toe-to-toe and traded blows. The close-up action also resulted in an accidental headbutt that caused a huge gash over Payano’s right eye.
“Payano came at us like a football player, and the referee allowed it,” said Warren’s trainer, Mike Stafford. “There should never have been two points taken [from Warren]—one if any, but not two—but we still dominated the fight.
“This time, we’re not going to let him hold us and turn it into a tug of war where he’s mauling and brawling. We’ll fight more from the angles and take him apart. He’ll get tired after five or six rounds. Then we’ll jump on him.”
With just four knockouts on his résumé, Warren is known more as a slick boxer with dazzling footwork, a solid chin and the ability to deliver punches from almost any angle. Although Warren came up short last year, the Cincinnati native defeated Payano in the amateur ranks, and he has revised his approach as he pursues his first world title.
“I’ve been sitting down on my shots, working on staying in the pocket and making them miss and making them pay,” Warren said. “I have a lot of different things I’ll do to frustrate him and get him to run into my power. I’m going to let the knockout come, but make no mistake about it: I’m going for the knockout.”
Payano, a two-time Dominican Olympian who now lives in Miami, said he anticipates a different approach from Warren, but expects a more focused effort from himself, as well. At last year’s bout in Winter Park, Florida, Payano had his wife and three sons ringside, which he says caused him to become too emotional at times during the fight.
“What I’m focused on is being more relaxed, controlling my emotions a little bit better than I did the first time, cleaning up my shots and placing them more precisely,” Payano said.
“Whatever is there, I’ll take it and hurt him early if I can. I’m going to double the amount of punches I throw, and you usually don’t win a fight if you’re getting hit with 50 percent more of the punches being thrown.”
For a complete look at Payano vs Warren, visit our fight page.