By Lem Satterfield
Rau’Shee Warren reached his career pinnacle in June 2016, taking the WBA’s “super” 118-pound title from fellow left-hander Juan Carlos Payano by majority decision in Chicago after losing a split decision for a vacant crown to the Dominican despite scoring a final-round knockdown in Winter Park, Florida, in August 2015.
But “Nuke” Warren was dethroned in his next fight in February 2017 by disputed split-decision to Kazakhstan’s Zhanat Zhakiyanov, despite scoring a pair of first-round knockdowns during his first defense at the Huntington Center in Toledo, Ohio, 200 miles from his hometown of Cincinnati.
The 31-year-old Warren (16-2, 4 KOs) considered pursuing a lower-weight crown after that, his 115-pound debut in July 2017 being a dominating unanimous decision over fellow southpaw and ex-titleholder McJoe Arroyo at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Warren weighed 113 ¼ for his victory over Arroyo, and, 116 ¼ for his subsequent victory, an even more dominant eight-round unanimous decision over Juan Gabriel Medina in April at Barclays on the undercard of a 144-pound draw between four-division champion Adrian Broner and two-division title winner Jessie Vargas.
The 5-foot-4 ½ Warren will yet again appear on a Broner ((33-3-1, 24 KOs)) undercard on January 19 at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Showtime Pay-Per-View, as The 29-year-old “Problem” challenges left-handed eight-division and WBA “regular” welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs).
Warren will seek vengeance on that night in a WBC 118-pound vacant title bout against left-handed Frenchman Nordine Oubaali (14-0,11 KOs), a 32-year-old who eliminated Warren, 19-18, in the first round of the 2012 London Games – Warren’s final Olympic appearance.
“I fought this guy in the Olympics, so I’m fighting for revenge,” said Warren of Oubaali, who will be after his sixth consecutive stoppage victory. “This isn’t the Olympics. This is 12 rounds, and I don’t think he’s fought anybody like me. I have no choice but to put it all on the line on January 19.”
Since following his brother to a boxing gym at the age of 7, Warren has been methodical in his steady ascent from raw young fighter to decorated amateur to the only three-time U.S. Olympic boxer to professional prospect to title contender to, finally, world champion.
“This fight means everything for me and it’s about to be the biggest moment of my career. Not only am I fighting for the WBC belt, but it’s on pay-per-view,” said Warren.
“When I first won the title it was like winning the gold medal at the Olympics. After I lost the title, it made me much hungrier and I want to get it back even more.”
But Warren is facing his one-time conqueror in Oubaali, whose most recent victory in April was by second round knockout over Luis Melendez.
The sixth of 18 children born in France to parents who are from Morocco, Oubaali twice represented that country at the Olympics, qualifying in 2008 and 2012.
“Many people are waiting for this fight because it’s the second time we meet. I beat Rau’shee Warren at the 2012 London Games in a great battle,” said Oubaali.
“In the meantime, Rau’shee captured a world championship and lost it. Right now, I’m the WBC No. 1 ranked bantamweight fighter in the world. It will be a great fight in Las Vegas on January 19 and I intend to beat Rau’shee again to become the new WBC world champion.”