Three and out. That pretty much sums up Rau’shee Warren’s three Olympic appearances. As it turns out, it was all worth the effort.
Warren has the distinction of being the only three-time Olympian in U.S. boxing history, but he also went winless in those appearances, which haunted the Cincinnati native upon his return home after his final showing in 2012.
The 5-foot-4½ southpaw quickly jumped into the pro ranks afterward and received his first title shot last August after winning his first 14 decisions. Warren scored a 12th-round knockdown against world champion Juan Carlos Payano in the 118-pound title bout, but a two-point deduction for an intentional foul in Round 9 left him on the wrong side of a split decision.
Rau’shee Warren (14-1, 4 KOs) got a rematch against Payano in June and made a strong second impression as he eked out a majority decision at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion to become the first member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team to win a world title.
Warren, who won his first amateur bout at the age of 8, collapsed onto the canvas after the decision was announced as he shed his Olympic failures in exchange for world-class jubilation.
“When they said, ‘and the new…’ I just blacked out. I’ve watched the replays and I don’t remember what happened,” Warren said. “It was a spontaneous reaction when they raised my hand. I pictured the ’hood I came from, living with eight people, including my mom and my brothers. It was a dream come true, the completion of a lot of hard work, and the end of years of frustration.”
Warren, 29, wondered if he had made the right decision to remain an amateur following his third Olympic disappointment in 2012. When he qualified for the U.S. team in 2004 as a light flyweight (106 pounds), Warren was the youngest boxer at the Athens Games and the youngest American male in any sport.
But getting bounced from the Olympics after one bout against eventual bronze medalist Zou Shiming of China—who won gold at both the 2008 and 2012 Games—is one thing at the age of 17. When Warren came up empty for the third time at the London Games eight years later, he wondered if he was on the right path.
“Three Olympics, three losses, no medal? That was a big deal at first because I didn't close the chapter by hanging a medal around my mother’s neck,” Warren said. “But after beating Payano, I became a champion my mom is proud of and a superhero to my kids. My [8-year-old] son Rau’shee Jr. walks around with his chest out saying, ‘Can’t nobody beat my daddy.’”
That victory over Payano, who Warren had defeated previously as an amateur, gave the Cincinnati native the career vindication he needed after his three Olympic failures.
“Coming up short year after year really haunted me. Sometimes I regretted not turning pro, but I kept it to myself and took out my frustrations in the gym,” Warren said. “Going to Athens, Beijing, London—all I’ve gone through led to me becoming a champion. It was all worth it. Everything's paid off. Now I have a legacy and a story to tell.”