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Payano and Warren set to settle the score in rematch

Juan Carlos Payano and Rau'shee Warren are set for a rematch one year in the making after a contested result in their first fight Suzanne Teresa/PBC

Bantamweight world titleholder Juan Carlos Payano and Rau'shee Warren simply do not agree on how their battle went in Winter Park, Florida, last August.

"I ran him ragged from post to post," Payano said. "It was the champion chasing the challenger. Normally to win the title, it has to be the other way around. If he had got the decision, there would have been no controversy, he'd be a superstar."

Warren disagrees. "I felt like I clearly won the first fight. I thought the two judges that scored the fight for him were going to give it to him no matter what. The fight was in his backyard. It really hurt me when they raised his hand. I felt cheated."

Headlining the first Premier Boxing Champions card on Bounce TV last summer, Payano and Warren -- both southpaws -- went to battle. There were fouls, point deductions, accidental head butts, cuts, a knockdown and plenty of action in the entertaining and highly competitive fight.

The referee docked one point from Payano for hitting Warren behind the head in the third round, and Warren had two points taken away in the ninth round for the flagrant foul of hitting Payano while he was down after having slipped to the mat.

Payano also suffered cuts over both eyes and Warren knocked him down in the 12th round -- a moment that many thought sealed a points victory for Warren.

In the end, however, the judges were split, with two scoring the fight 113-111 for Payano (17-0, 8 KOs) and one having it 115-109 for Warren (13-1, 4 KOs), who called for an immediate rematch.

With neither having fought since, they will both end the longest layoffs of their professional careers (321 days) and meet again Saturday (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET) in the co-feature of a PBC card at UIC Pavilion in Chicago.

Polish light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara (28-3, 16 KOs), a 28-year-old who fights out of Chicago, will face heavy underdog Joe Smith Jr. (21-1, 17 KOs), 26, of Shirley, New York, in the scheduled 10-round main event. In another televised bout, blue-chip junior middleweight prospect Erickson Lubin (14-0, 10 KOs), a 20-year-old southpaw from Orlando, Florida, will face Daniel Sandoval (38-3, 35 KOs), 25, of Mexico, in a 10-rounder.

"I've been getting ready for this since the first fight. That's going to be the biggest difference from the last fight," said Warren, who trained in Washington, D.C., with fighters such as Lamont Peterson, Gervonta Davis and Adrien Broner, regarding the rematch. "I'm expecting Payano to try to prove himself. He's going to bring his all and put it all on the line, just like I will."

The 32-year-old Payano, a 2004 and 2008 Olympian from the Dominican Republic, makes his second title defense -- and he's aiming for the same result against Cincinnati's Warren, 29, the only boxer ever to represent the United States three times as an Olympian (2004, 2008 and 2012).

"I have come very well-prepared," said Payano, who lost an amateur bout to Warren. "I knew that Rau'shee was a tremendous fighter before our first fight and I'm looking forward to the rematch. I've had a great camp and I'm thinking very positively. I know at the end of the night I will have my hand raised in victory.

"I know Warren has to say that he thinks he won the (first) fight and maybe he really does think that. It doesn't affect me. That's the reality of it. He can keep saying it, but it doesn't matter."

Warren said he believes he is better now than he was when he faced Payano the first time.

"I watched our first fight about 20 times," Warren said. "I spent a lot of time looking at my mistakes and things I needed to eliminate. I feel like this fight is going to be really easy for me now. Payano is not getting out of this one. I won't be finished until he stops. He's going to try to get away from me, but I'm going to use what I'm doing in the gym to take him out smart. I'm way smarter now and a knockout is going to come.

"I had (almost) a whole year to train to get ready for this. I want to let everyone know that I'm coming to take the title. I'm not playing around. I doubt it's going 12 rounds. I want Payano to know that. I'm going out to get what I deserve. I feel like I won it the first time and I'm coming to take it home."

Payano said although he believes he clearly won the first fight, he knew many would disagree with the decision, so he was happy to give Warren a rematch.

"When I won the fight, I knew there would be some controversy," he said. "He was whining the second the fight ended. I'll give him 10 rematches and it won't change the result. There aren't many elite 118-pounders out there, so who knows, we may fight again after this. I'm very experienced, so I will not be bothered by the big stage. I've fought huge international opposition. We're both warriors and we'll be completely focused. At the end of the day I will win the fight and leave no more controversy.

"People can expect a great fight with the same result as the first matchup. I will come out the victor. As far as any controversy from the first fight, it was a close fight. I could have made it easier but nevertheless it was what it was.

"I plan to win even more convincingly this time. I'm going to use my ring intelligence and not fight on emotion like I did in the first fight. I'm going to fight smart, but my style is my style. I don't know how to fight any other way, so it will be another great fight. I'm sure he will make adjustments but I know I will win this fight.

He said that Warren is the second-best fighter in the division and that he has no bad feelings toward him.

"I respect him as an accomplished amateur, but this is not the amateurs. This is a 12-round battle and the same result will come on Saturday night."

Warren never won a fight in the Olympics, despite three trips, and he lost to Payano in their first title fight. This time he believes he will score his biggest win and take home the belt.

"This fight is going to be different. I know it," Warren said. "I'm coming in there to fight. He might think he has the blueprint, but it's a different story every time. This is going to take my name up to another level."