by Cliff Rold
While it isn’t the official main event, for serious fight fans the bantamweight title rematch beneath the light heavyweight bout between Andrzej Fonfara and Joe Smith (NBC, 8:30 PM EST/5:30 PM PST) might be the best reason to tune in.
Many missed it the first time around, airing on Bounce TV. That’s too bad. It turned out to be a pretty good fight. Juan Carlos Payano and Rau’Shee Warren have a chance to do it again, and try to top it, with a bigger audience this time around.
Not that a pretty good fight was always a pretty fight. For those who like the rough stuff, there was plenty of that for twelve rounds. Clinches, mauling inside, holding and hitting, head clashes and blood, low blows…both men lost points in the first fight on fouls. Warren also scored a knockdown in the final round.
There’s probably going to be more of that the second time around.
Let’s go the report card.
Juan Carlos Payano
Title: WBA ‘super’ Bantamweight (2014-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 117 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Miami, Florida (Born in Dominican Republic)
Record: 17-0, 8 KO?
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0
Rankings: #2 (BoxingScene, TBRB, ESPN, Ring)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 1 (Anselmo Moreno Tech. Dec. 6)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’4 ½
Weight: 117 lbs.
Hails from: Cincinnati, Ohio
Record: 13-1, 4 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1
Rankings: #7 (TBRB, ESPN), #9 (BoxingScene)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 1 (Juan Carlos Payano L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Payano B+; Warren A
Pre-Fight: Power – Payano B; Warren C+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Payano B-; Warren B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Payano B+; Warren B
Some might see a little bit of Ricardo Mayorga in Payano. He doesn’t carry the same kind of pop, but his wild charges have a resemblance. What aids his cause is what was often underrated about Mayorga: Payano is quicker than he looks.
No, he’s not as fast as Warren. Warren might have some of the quicker hands in the game and the difference in their speed the first time was evident. Payano had success there, and in his title win against Moreno, because he’s quick enough for the attack he presents. His punches comes from odd angles, he puts his whole body forward when he throws them, and it is hell to time for many.
Payano also has a street fighting impulse that can frustrate. He’s not afraid to get dirty in there. Warren let that get to him in spots the first time. Will experience make him sharper? That would be easier to answer if both men hadn’t been shelved for the last year. Some reward for a good fight, huh? It’s been nearly a year since either was in the ring. Let’s hope the winner fights again before the summer of 2017.
Warren scored a big knockdown in the final round the first time. It stands out because he hasn’t shown much power in his career. The three-time US Olympian has a ton of amateur rounds defining his style. That means lots of contact shots but not a ton of power. It doesn’t mean boring. Warren has shown a willingness to step in throughout his career.
In terms of intangibles, both guys still have something to prove. Payano seemed far too comfortable taking his title from Moreno on a cut and was flagging bad late against Warren. His inactivity leaves him somewhat hard to full gauge. We’ve only seen a hint of him at a higher level. The same is true for Warren who has a lot to prove. Warren’s Olympic legacy and first title fight so far indicate a fighter who knows how to end up with something to complain about and little to show for it. This is a chance to change that narrative.
Warren seemed to land the cleaner shots in the first fight but it was easy to see how the fight got away. Payano’s aggression and bullish offense dictated the pace of the fight and earned him a number of close, physical rounds. Having seen him once, Warren should be able to do earlier what he did better as the first fight wore on: time Payano coming in and take the lead in the fight. Payano got the benefit of the doubt last time; he was a little lucky to have a cut send his first title fight with Anselmo Moreno to the cards just as Moreno was getting into his groove. Warren contains the wild man and piles up the points, potentially earning a stoppage late in the fight. If not, Warren finally gets his gold on points.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 23-9
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]