By Cliff Rold
There is only one fighter to grace three US Olympic teams.
The same fighter is the only US boxer ever to exit the Olympics three times in his first fight. 28-year old Rau’Shee Warren (13-0, 4 KO) won his share of accolades over the years. Flyweight Bronze medals at the 2005 and 2011 World Championships bookended a Gold medal in 2007. For some reason, the Olympics just didn’t work out.
Warren was only 17 the first time through, losing to eventual Gold Medalist Zou Shiming in what everyone could chalk up to a learning experience. One-point losses in each of his next two appearances were heartbreaking and head scratching.
This Sunday, Warren has a chance to put that all behind him and he has twelve rounds without amateur scoring to get it done. Making a big step up in competition, Warren challenges WBA Bantamweight titlist 31-year old Dominican Juan Carlos Payano (16-0, 8 KO) in a Sunday prime time affair (Bounce TV, 9 PM EST/6 PM PST).
Win and Warren will be the first African-American titlist at 118 lbs. since Tim Austin had a nice run as IBF champion from 1997-20003. Adding something to the storyline, Warren and Austin are both from Cincinnati.
This being the PBC, which doesn’t seem much interested in geography, they won’t be fighting anywhere near Ohio. Instead, they will lock horns at the arena made famous among wrestling nerds by WWE’s excellent “NXT” show, Full Sail University. Payano fights out of Miami, so perhaps that is the thinking.
Maybe a ‘this is awesome’ chant will break out?
It’s an intriguing fight on paper either way. Payano is the more experienced professional of the two, though neither has yet been twelve rounds. A development win over veteran Luis Maldonado and a title win, shortened to six by a cut, over the outstanding Anselmo Moreno give Payano some ring maturity. Payano’s aggression and punching power make him dangerous for a fighter who saw far better in the unpaid ranks than he has yet as a professional.
Warren hasn’t faced anything approaching a contender yet. He hasn’t shown how he handles adversity against a legitimate threat or how his lack of power can be offset by skill against the same. He’s jumping straight from prospect fare to a guy with some chops. Maybe his handlers have that much faith in their guy. Maybe they don’t know what they’re doing.
Or, and this might be closest to reality, Warren’s age and the weight class he fights in means expediting him to try to make some money. 28 isn’t old for a fighter but at Bantamweight it isn’t young and three Olympics means a lot of miles already tallied. We’re seeing a lot of guys with excellent amateur runs get moved fast right now. Artur Beterbiev, Vasyl Lomachenko, and Naoya Inoue are all fast track talents.
Warren is another in the trend.
Inactivity could be an issue for Payano, who hasn’t fought since last September. Other than that, this looks like a ballsy place to take a shot.
Warren is being gambled early. Win and he could largely have what market there is for his division in the US cornered. The best fight that can be made at Bantamweight is signed for September, pitting Japan’s Shinsuke Yamanaka against Moreno. That will appeal to hardcore fans but Yamanaka isn’t likely to travel to the US if he wins. Moreno isn’t going to sell a bunch of tickets here.
With Warren’s handlers at the PBC recently signing McJoe Arroyo three pounds south, and Carl Frampton four pounds up, there could be some in-house matches for him down the road. Lose and Warren being lost in the shuffle isn’t hard to fathom.
Whether he’s ready for this shot or not, it’s here and Warren has a chance to change the narrative of his public boxing life. So far, he’s been the guy who can’t quite get it done on the biggest stage.
Sunday, he can be the guy holding his first major title belt in the air.
Danny Garcia-Paulie Malignaggi just doesn’t get the blood boiling does it? Malignaggi hasn’t fought since being steamrolled by Shawn Porter well over a year ago. That it looks like the action side of a show with Daniel Jacobs-Sergio Mora makes this a perplexing offering from the PBC. On paper, this is a card that screams DVR and watch it if one hears it exceeded expectations. Shouldn’t the PBC be making fights that have a high possibility of making new fans? Does anyone think either of these is likely to do that? Just throwing random matches on TV doesn’t make boxing more appealing…If Roman Gonzalez-Juan Francisco Estrada II can’t get done, a showdown with Brian Viloria is probably the most appealing action match at Flyweight. Some of the other names being thrown around for Gonzalez’s slated appearance on the Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux undercard should be flat thrown out…If Floyd Mayweather-Andre Berto were happening on free TV, so be it. On pay-per-view? It doesn’t matter what is on the undercard. It’s all lipstick on a pig and doesn’t deserve anyone’s extra cash. Replays happen seven days later…Tyson Fury is already making the sort of noise that always made a showdown with Wladimir Klitschko look like fun. Even if the fight sucks, the build is going to be so much fun. This could rival the press conference insanity of Vitali Klitschko-Dereck Chisora before it’s done.
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]