This isn’t the first time Rau’shee Warren and Juan Carlos Payano have tangled.
In 2008, Team USA staged a match against the Dominican Republic team in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a then-amateur Warren came out on top with a 32-15 decision. Don’t think Warren (13-0, 4 KOs) doesn’t have that in the back of his mind when he and Juan Carlos Payano (16-0, 8 KOs) go toe-to-toe again, this time as unbeaten professionals, when they square up at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, in a bout airing on Bounce TV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) and also streaming live on BounceTV.com.
“He still fights the same,” Rau'shee Warren said. “The referee took a point, but I got that point right back when I gave him an eight-count. It’s a different stage now. I’m bringing more power, more speed. I’m bringing it all.”
When they met, both men were veterans of one Olympic campaign in Athens and each on the way for their respective countries to the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Warren, though, would keep it going even further, becoming the only American boxer to go to three Olympics when he competed in London in 2012.
“When I got to Athens I was still young,” Warren said of being an Olympian at 17. “I didn’t know what was really going on. I wasn’t really used to flying out the country. I was just overwhelmed a little bit. I was kind of looking around and didn’t realize I was doing something big for my city and my country. I didn’t really hit me until I left to go home and I started getting ready for another four years to come back, because I realized what I did the first time.”
Warren lost to China’s Zou Shiming, and he returned to the amateur ranks where he fought in national and international tournaments, including a gold medal score in the 2007 World Amateur Championships in Chicago.
It set him up for a return trip in the red, white and blue come August 2008. The experience became a little more real, even I he’d lose a first-round heartbreaker to South Korea’s Lee Ok-Sung.
“When I went in 2008, when I was 21, it hit me right then. I’m like, ‘Damn, I did this in 2004 when I was 17?’” Warren said. “When I fought against the Korean and lost by one point, I felt like I had won. Dealing with the judging over there, their type of scoring is really different. I felt like as an American going in the ring I already lost. I was throwing four and five combinations at one point versus the guy I was fighting, he might throw one punch. But he would get a point. It was really difficult dealing with stuff like that. When I lost, I did want to go pro. I was frustrated. I felt like they weren’t fair.”
Understandable frustrations aside, Warren had a tough choice ahead of him. He was still young, and had the option of staying as an amateur or turning professional. After he sat down with his team, he opted to compete in the then-new World Series of Boxing, where he could remain as an amateur.
While competing in that, he again qualified for Team USA, and had one more chance at Olympic glory. This time, though, the result would be the same as the first two trips: A first-round elimination, this time at the hands of Frenchman Nordine Oubaali.
“I felt like the first Olympics I was inexperienced,” Warren said. “The second one in 2008 I thought I won that. The third was like, should I box him or should I knock him out? I was definitely looking for the knockout. I just came up short again, losing by one point again. I was like this can’t be real. I was ready to go professional right then and there.”
Yet it turns out that long amateur road is one that winds in a circle. After all that time, here Warren is again, taking on a familiar foe from those amateur days.
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