By Jake Donovan
It was a bittersweet moment for Juan Carlos Payano upon his recent ring return. While grateful for his latest victory – an 8th round stoppage of Isao Gonzalo Carranza on Friday in Miami, Florida – there was a sense that something was missing.
That certain something was his old bantamweight title belt, as the bout marked the first time in more than two years that he would enter or leave a ring without said strap in tow. He entered Friday’s bout on the heels of a seven-month layoff following his narrow points loss to Rau’Shee Warren in their NBC-televised rematch last June, which trailed a 10-month layoff after his title-defending split decision victory in their first fight in Aug. ’15.
Goals for 2017 include his next several fights not being preceded by any more gaps in ring activity, as well as reclaiming his crown.
“I want to fight 3-4 times per year; that’s how you stay sharp,” Payano (18-1, 9KOs) told BoxingScene.com shortly after Friday’s victory. “Obviously, it’s not all up to me, but I’m going to push my team (Caicedo, manager Henry Rivalta, adviser Al Haymon) to make this happen.
“Among those fights in 2017, has to be a trilogy with Warren.”
By the numbers, the bantamweights have combined for five Olympic appearances and two terrific title fights.
Payano represented his native Dominican Repubic in the 2004 Athens Olympics as well as 2008 in Beijing, advancing to the second round of competition on both occasions. Warren made history by becoming the only ever U.S. boxer to serve in three Olympics – 2004, 2008 and 2012 in London, although failing to produce a single victory among the lot.
Warren did, however, become the first from the 2012 U.S. Olympic team to capture a major title in the pro ranks. It took him two tries, coming up just short in a split decision loss to Payano in their Aug. ’15 clash – which served as the maiden headliner for the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC): The Next Round series on Bounce TV – before barely edging the Miami-based Dominican boxer in their rematch last June.
With his own victory out of the way, Payano will pay close attention to the next move made by his old ring rival.
Warren - born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio - makes the first defense of his title on February 10, returning to the Bounce TV circuit as he faces mandatory challenger Zhanat Zhakiyanov. The bout serves as the co-main event to stablemate Robert Easter Jr.’s first defense of his lightweight title in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio.
Should all go according to plan that evening, Warren can expect an earful for what Payano believes should happen at some point in the new year.
“There has to be a trilogy between us,” Payano insists. “In fact, as far as I’m concerned I’d fight Rau’Shee Warren ten times. He brings out the best in me, as I do for him.
“All I hope is that when he fights next month that he wins and then gives me the chance to regain my title, just as I gave him a second chance to fight for it. We both are advised by Al Haymon, who I am supremely confident can make this happen.”