By Jake Donovan
With the World Boxing Council (WBC) bantamweight title vacant for more than 10 months, Rau’Shee Warren and Nordine Oubaali are one step closer toward determining who will get to fill the void.
Their vacant title clash takes place January 19 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, in supporting capacity on a Showtime Pay-Per-View topped by Manny Pacquiao’s long-awaited U.S. ring return versus former four-division titlist Adrien Broner.
For their part, the pair of bantamweight southpaws have come well within the WBC-mandated 30- and 7-day safety weight checks, the latter having been recorded over the weekend. Warren, who was already at 122.2 pounds at the 30-day check, weighed in at 121 pounds on Saturday, while France’s Oubaali was only slightly heavier at 121.6 pounds.
The maximum allowed 7-day pre-fight weight for a WBC-sanctioned bantamweight title fight is 124 pounds, rounded up from 5% of the contracted 118-pound limit.
Warren (16-2, 4KOs) looks to win his second bantamweight title as a pro, all while avenging an old amateur loss in the process.
The 31-year old southpaw from Cincinnati—the lone-ever three-time U.S. Olympic boxer—became the first from the Class of 2012 to win a major title in the pro ranks when he outpointed Juan Carlos Payano in their June ’16 NBC-televised rematch.
The win avenged a tightly contested loss to the Florida-based Dominican in Aug. ’15, although Warren’s title tour was shortlived. He lost the belt in his very first defense, suffering a stunning split decision defeat to Zhanat Zhakiyanov in a Feb. ’17 Bounce-TV-televised bout in Toledo, Ohio.
Two wins have followed for Warren, both coming at or closer to the 115-pound super flyweight limit. In fact, his July ’17 win over Puerto Rico’s McJoe Arroyo made him the mandatory challenger to a super flyweight title, which he never pursued.
Following a stay busy win last April in Brooklyn, Warren opted for a return to bantamweight where he was installed as a mandatory challenger for the WBC title. The belt became available after Luis Nery miserably missed weight for his repeat win over former champ Shinsuke Yamanaka last March.
Warren’s bid for the crown comes versus a former conqueror in Oubaali (14-0, 11KOs), a two-time Olympian for his native France whom outpointed the American in the second round of the 2012 London Olympics.
Oubaali would lose his next bout, falling short to eventual Bronze medalist Michael Conlan in the quarterfinals. His pro career wouldn’t begin for another two years, but he’s made the most of his short time in the paid ranks.
Among his notable wins to date are a May ’16 stoppage win over Iran Diaz—who recently challenged Srisaket Sor Rungvisai for the World super flyweight championship—and a 10th round stoppage of veteran contender Alejandro ‘Payasito’ Hernandez. The June ’17 feat officially put Oubaali in the title mix, maintaining his ranking with knockout wins over Philippines’ Mark Anthony Geraldo and Colombia’s Luis Melendez.
The winner of Saturday’s vacant title fight will be mandated to defend versus interim titlist Takuma Inoue. The unbeaten boxer from Japan—and younger brother of pound-for-pound entrant Naoya Inoue–earned his place in line with a 12-round win over Thailand’s Petch Sor Chipattana last December in Tokyo.