NASHVILLE—Finally able to return to the ring and end a 13-month hiatus, Rau’Shee Warren is ready to return to a normal schedule and to past glory.
The three-time U.S. Olympian and former bantamweight titlist has just the candidate in mind to help him realize the latter.
“I want [Guillermo] Rigondeaux before the end of the year, get that belt,” Warren (17-3, 4KOs) told BoxingScene.com after his 10-round win over Gilberto Mendoza this past Saturday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. “I want a title before December. That’s all I care about.
“I want to be back by May, no more long layoffs. Stay active and get back my title. I feel like this fight was a good warm-up. I want to be back in the ring by May, another good warm-up but a step up from (Saturday night).”
Warren’s latest performance came on the non-televised undercard of a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox tripleheader, topped by unbeaten super middleweight titlist Caleb Plant in a homecoming title defense. The bout was the first for Warren since a 12-round loss to former amateur rival Nordine Oubaali in their vacant bantamweight title fight last January.
A planned clash with fellow former bantamweight titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez last fall ultimately fell through, leaving Warren with a one-fight campaign for the third time in four years.
The year ahead will change that trend in a big way if Warren’s schedule pans out as he expects. Included on his priority list is a showdown with Rigondeaux (20-1, 13KOs), in what would be a pairing of two of the greatest resumes in amateur boxing history. Between the two comes nearly 800 amateur fights, five Olympic appearances (including two Olympic Gold medals for Rigondeaux) and three separate title reigns in the pro ranks.
Rigondeaux—who still holds ties to the lineal junior featherweight championship—returned to the alphabet title stage after outpointing Liborio Solis for a secondary bantamweight belt earlier this month. The 39-year old from Miami by way of Cuba has also vowed to be far more active than the seven fights he’s spray painted over a five-plus year stretch. It’s already changed since signing with Al Haymon and Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), his win over Solis serving as his third since inking that deal.
Prior to his title win came a thrilling 8th round knockout of former 122-pound titlist Julio Ceja last June. Rigondeaux’s victory over Solis didn’t resonate quite as much with viewers, or with his divisional peers.
“I ain’t like his last performance,” notes Warren, who enjoyed a 10-month bantamweight title reign following a 12-round win over Juan Carlos Payano in their June 2016 rematch. “I feel like his age is starting to catch up to him.
“I ain’t gonna doubt that he’s a great fighter but his age catching up to him. It’s time for him to scoot over and let me take over.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox