It’s been 10 months since Rau’shee Warren fell just short of beating Juan Carlos Payano in their 118-pound title fight, and he’s still convinced the better man didn’t win.
Warren produced a 12th-round knockdown after pressuring the champion for much of the fight, but Payano retained his title in a debatable split decision at Full Sail Live in Winter Park, Florida.
Two of the three judges gave Payano a 113-111 edge in the rough-and-tumble bout, while the other scored it 115-109 for Warren, who had two points deducted in the ninth round for an intentional foul, which possibly cost him a championship.
“I’ve watched the fight more than 20 times,” Warren said. “After six rounds, I started roughing him up like he was doing me with all that holding and rabbit punching. He started faking things and looking for reasons to get out of the fight.
“Payano’s family sat near my family, and I saw his wife didn’t think he won. When your husband wins, you’re up smiling and clapping. But she had a cold face and wasn’t happy because she knew he didn’t win.”
Rau’shee Warren (13-1, 4 KOs) is resolved to leave no doubt the second time around when he meets Juan Carlos Payano (17-0, 8 KOs) in a 118-pound title rematch Saturday night at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).
“I was supposed to fight someone else, but that didn’t happen, and I wouldn’t have been as motivated for that one as I am for this fight with Payano," said the 29-year-old Cincinnati native. "This is definitely the right time and the right fight for me. I feel like he took something from me that I deserved."
To prepare for the rematch against his fellow southpaw, the 5-foot-4½ Warren sparred about 10 rounds with unbeaten 135-pound prospect Gervonta “Tank” Davis over two days in May in Washington, D.C.
At 5-foot-6, the left-handed Davis stands one inch taller than Payano, while possessing more power and a longer reach, so Warren believes he is ready for anything the champion can throw at him Saturday.
“I took Payano’s best shot [last August] and I shook it off because I was getting careless with my jab, stepped in and he threw an overhand left that hit me on the chin," said Warren, a three-time U.S. Olympian.
“This time, I’ll use more of my foot movement when he tries to run and grab me. I’ll be stepping around to prevent holding. I know Payano don’t hit nowhere near as hard as Tank does, so I’ll lay it all on the table."
For complete coverage of Payano vs Warren, visit our fight page.