By J.R Jowett: Al Haymon presented a card at University of Illinois Pavilion in Chicago, televised by NBC. For the second straight week, a purported world title fight was relegated to the undercard on national television. In a rare match of southpaws, Rau’Shee Warren, 117, Cincinnati, 14-1 (4), took on Juan Carlos Payano, 117 ¼, a Dominican fighting out of Miami, 17-1 (8), in an opportunity to reverse his only defeat, by a hotly disputed split decision. As a fight it was tactically interesting but tedious and difficult to score, lacking true drama or sustained action. As a boxer, Warren is notably skilled. But his style is like a drunk with a bulging wallet, begging to be robbed. He slips smoothly away from punches, often with hands down, but allows them to come dangerously close, considering that most judges don’t know the difference between a punch thrown and a punch landed. Meanwhile, he rarely makes the opponent pay for these misses but hoards his own punches as if in short supply.
For his part, Payano came forward all night, but generally fell short of applying genuine pressure. If he only put two or three punches together, Rau’shee might slip them all. When he threw more, at least a few got home. The pattern was for Warren to take the lead quickly at the start of a round, backpedaling and putting together short combos, and then sit on the lead. Action would nullify in mid round before Payano would finally start to catch up and try to steal the round with a late rally. This was the pattern in many of the rounds, with Warren taking the lead in the early rounds but Payano keeping it close.The frustrated Dominican appeared to throw a deliberate cheap shot at the end of round four.
The middle rounds had Payano’s aggression beginning to pay off, leaving the impression that Warren might fade late and lose the lead. But Rau’Shee changed all that with a spirited attack to start round nine, standing in and trading instead of hit and run. With shorter punches and quicker hands, it was all Rau’Shee, although Juan Carlos made a game effort to salvage the round late. The next two rounds followed the same pattern, Rau’Shee blitzing Juan Carlos early and then holding him off. The final round was an undisciplined mishmosh with neither gaining control.
The fight went to the scorecards, and Nelson Vasquez scored 114-114. But Robert Eccles and Steve Weisfeld did a good job turning in 115-113 wins for Rau’Shee. He fell face first to the canvas, dragging a cornerman down with him, in wild celebration, while Payano’s sportsmanlike attempt to congratulate the winner couldn’t get his attention. Not a bad fight and not a bad decision, but Championship quality?
The real main event for the large Polish contingent in Chicago was a scheduled 10 between local hero Andrzej Fonfara, 174 ½, Warsaw via Chi., 28-4 (16), and longshot underdog Joe Smith, Jr., 173, Massapequa, LI, 22-1 (17). It ended tragically for local fans. Their hero was belted out in 2:32 of round one. Smith came out with an ambitious but crude attack, boring in close. When Fonfara began to measure him for short inside shots partway into the round, it looked as if the favorite had taken control. But that ended in a few crushing seconds. Andrzej seemed to jolt Joe with two short left hooks as the two fell against each other. Smith was angled to his right side and Fonfara, in a moment of lost concentration, appeared to try to step back, left hand low. Joe lashed back with a beauty of a right that sprawled Andrzej spectacularly on the canvas. He got up but was solidly pounded into a corner where he tried to cover but was nailed by a double left hook and a crashing right that sent him straight down like a man on a gallows. Referee Hector Afu called a TKO.
“I expected to go then rounds,” said Smith. “I worked real hard. I trained harder than I ever have in my life…I came here today to prove a point…and I proved that tonight.”
In a scheduled eight, Erickson Lubin, 153 ½, Orlando, 15-0 (11), stopped Daniel Sandoval, 158, Guadalajara, 38-4 (34), in 2:36 of round three. The lanky Mexican had nothing for the touted southpaw. Lubin dominated the action with a variety of punches until he got Sandoval on the hook with a right to the body. Pouring it on, left-right-left-right, Erickson had Daniel on the ropes and clocked with every shot until referee Mark Nelson stopped it.
Known as “The Hammer”, Lubin calls his hands the Jackhammer and the Sledgehammer. “It was both, the Jack and the Sledge, they went to work tonight,” he averred.
Maciej Sulecki, 159, Warsaw, 23-0 (8), redeemed the night for the Polish fans with a solid performance, stopping Hugo Centeno, Jr., 163, Oxnard, 24-1 (12), at 1:06 of the final round of ten. As good an effort as it was for Sulecki, it was that disgraceful for Centeno. Sulecki didn’t charge in wildly but moved smartly behind the left, jabs and hooks, applying a steady, controlled pressure for which the recently reactivated Californian hadn’t a clue. Sulecki dominated every round, cautiously at first, but by the sixth, Centeno had virtually given up and was just surviving. He didn’t even succeed at that. Sulecki ducked a weak right, brought up the left and then crossed a booming right to send Centeno down. He got up, bleeding , and referee Nelson called a halt. The ref himself had taken a solid shot earlier in the fight. While stepping in from Centeno’s left side to break a clinch while Hugo was doubled over, Hugo came up with a right cross to nail Nelson, who shook it off gamely.
Below is what the fighters had to Saturday night:
JOE SMITH JR.
"There’s no feeling like this. I’m happy to take this victory back home to New York to all my fans.
"I’ll talk to my promoter but I’m hoping for another big fight to get myself to a world title.
"Now everybody knows who I am. This is the best thing that could have happened.
"Once I started hitting him and pushing him back he fell away and left himself open for the right hand.
"I thought this would be more of a fight, but I took him out early and it feels great.
"He was punching and I knew he leaves himself open. I was just looking for the punch and it landed."
"He is a heavy puncher. He hit me with a great punch. It happens.
"I threw some good punches, but I got too comfortable. I didn’t see the punch coming. That made it a great punch.
"I’m disappointed because I thought I would win the fight but it is boxing. I will rest and get back in the ring. I’ll get back to work."
"This feels great. It’s unbelievable. Payano came to put on a great fight but I came out victorious. It was a good fight. If he wants the rematch, we can do it again.
"I was comfortable that I had won the decision. He came to fight and he stayed active. My corner just told me I had to answer back.
"We wanted to make him miss and make him pay. I definitely made him miss a lot. He was just staying busy. I bobbed and weaved. I pressed him enough to where I could take over. Barry Hunter told me I had to take the last round and I got him cut.
"My corner just kept telling me to work. I knew I was in control but I just had to step on the pedal at the right time.
"I want to take it to another level. A third fight could be really big. I want Warren-Payano 3 in Cincinnati. If not I’ll go after all the other champions."
JUAN CARLOS PAYANO
"I wasn’t able to completely follow my game plan. At moments I was able to do what we trained for, but not enough. I hurt my rib early in the first two rounds and it made it difficult to grab and breathe. I take nothing away from him.
"I was courteous enough to offer the rematch right away and I hope that I get reciprocated the same way.
"Rau’shee was pretty much the same as last time. I fought his pace and I didn’t follow my plan. I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do and he was able to prevail. I think I gave the fight away and Rau’shee won the fight."
"I felt great. He’s a veteran so I wanted to take my time and get him out of there by chipping away. I saw that he was hurt with a hook. I saw that it cut him and I wanted to rush him. A flurry of punches and the ref stopped it.
"I’m looking at going higher in the rankings. My team knows I’ll fight everybody. They have to stop me from fighting people cause I’ll say yes to anyone. I just want a title and I’ll do anything to get there.
"I’m still working. I feel great right now. I’m excited to get back in the gym. I didn’t hurt anything. I just want to keep going from here.
"I will fight anybody. I’m not a ’turkey,’ I’m a ’pilgrim.’ Everybody is on my radar."
"He threw a good combination and I stopped throwing punches, so the referee did what he had to do.
"The referee had the best vantage point and I agree with his decision. Lubin was the better fighter tonight."
"It was a milestone fight for me. This could give me a chance to fight for the middleweight world title.
"I’ve always thought of myself as a technical fighter. I just needed a small adjustment to move the technique to power. That is exactly what happened when I moved to America.
"This is unbelievable. It’s hard to put into words. Fighting on the biggest stage in American television is amazing.
"I knew from the beginning that I was going to dominate. I needed a couple of rounds to get my timing. Once I got my timing, I knew that I was physically and mentally better than this guy.
"I want to fight Daniel Jacobs. I think that would be a great fight."
HUGO CENTENO JR.
"I had trouble making weight. I don’t want to make excuses. He did what he had to do, but I felt like I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.
"I felt sluggish by the fourth round. The fatigue set in hard. I wanted to finish the fight. I work hard for it. It is what it is, but I can’t wait to get back in the ring again."
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June 18, 2016