CHICAGO- Rau'shee Warren is ready. The three-time Olympian and top bantamweight challenger from Cincinnati has spent months preparing for his second showdown against world champion Juan Carlos Payano. In August 2015, the two fought ferociously to a controversial split decision, which went in Payano's favor, allowing the Dominican Republic native to retain his title. Warren was less than pleased with the judges' decision, and intends to take what he feels is rightfully his when the two rematch in primetime on NBC on June 18.
"I felt like I clearly won the first fight," said Warren. "I thought the two judges that scored the fight for him were going to give it to him no matter what. The fight was in his backyard. It really hurt me when they raised his hand, I felt cheated."
The first fight between Payano and Warren served as the main event for the first installment of the PBC: The Next Round on Bounce TV series on August 2, 2015. One judge scored the bout 115-109 for Warren while the other two had it 113-11 for Payano, leaving the two men to dispute the true winner of the bout. But for Payano, there was no question that he was the rightful winner that night.
"I ran him ragged from post to post," said Payano. "It was the champion chasing the challenger. Normally to win the title, it has to be the other way around. If he had got the decision, there would have been no controversy, he'd be a superstar."
The fight featured solid two-way action throughout but the final scores were effected by a couple of decisions by referee Frank Santore Jr. Payano lost a point in the third round for punches to the back of the head, while Warren was deducted two points in round nine for a foul that was ruled intentional.
For this fight, neither man plans to leave any doubt in the minds of the audience or the judges.
"I watched our first fight about 20 times," said Warren. "I spent a lot of time looking at my mistakes and things I needed to eliminate. I feel like this fight is going to be really easy for me now. Payano is not getting out of this one. I won't be finished until he stops. He's going to try to get away from me, but I'm going to use what I'm doing in the gym to take him out smart. I'm way smarter now and a knockout is going to come."
"I plan to win even more convincingly this time," said Payano. "I'm going to use my ring intelligence and not fight on emotion like I did in the first fight. I'm going to fight smart, but my style is my style. I don't know how to fight any other way, so it will be another great fight. I'm sure he will make adjustments but I know I will win this fight."
The punch stats told the classic tale of the busier fighter versus the more accurate fighter. Payano threw 709 punches to Warren's 439. But it was Warren who out landed Payano 173 to 166, while owning the advantage in connect percentage at 39 percent to 23 percent. Warren was even able to score a knockdown of Payano in the 12th round but was unable narrow the scores enough to get the victory.
Now, training camp is in full swing as as both men look to gain an edge and leave the ring with their hand raised on June 18.
"Training has been going great," said Payano. "It's been a very long camp. We were supposed to fight a long time ago and it didn't happen. We've been waiting a long time and I'm ready to go. I'm eating gunpowder and the bomb is going off on June 18, so be ready."
"The first time around it was just me, my brother, personal trainer and my coach out in Colorado," said Warren. "This time I started training back home in Cincinnati and now I'm in Washington, D.C. sparring with Gervonta Davis to get ready. The way I look at it, my sparring partner is better than Payano."
The Payano vs. Warren rematch will open up Premier Boxing Champions on NBC coverage on June 18 at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT that is headlined by light heavyweight bruiser Andrzej Fonfara taking on tough New Yorker Joe "The Irish Bomber" Smith Jr.
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Warriors Boxing and Star Boxing, are priced at $201, $101, $61 and $41, not including applicable service charges, and are on sale now. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or UIC Pavilion Box Office at (312) 413-5740. Tickets are also available at www.ticketmaster.com or by visiting the UIC Pavilion Box Office (Thursday or Friday 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.).