The little men have always struggled to get their just due in boxing, no matter how qualified they were entering the paid ranks. This holds especially true of American bantamweight, Rau’shee Warren.

“Baby Pit” was an immensely decorated amateur who not only became the first American to enter three Olympic Summer Games, but won a gold medal in the 2007 World Championships by decisioning Thai fighter, Somjit Jongjohor, the man who would conquer all in Beijing the very next year. And as any pugilist engaging in regular international competition can tell you, it was no easy road. He was paired against many well-known practitioners of the nonprofessional game in guys like: Guillermo Rigondeaux, Zou Shiming, Misha Aloyan, Jesse Magdaleno, Khalid Yafai, and many others.

Like many other modern amateur standouts, Warren moved on to the World Series of Boxing. There the paychecks were steady; the benefits were alluring and the competition was borderline world class, even for the pros. The 5’4” Cincinnati-native breezed through without a loss, securing victories in all seven of his contests.

With this high-level background, Warren marched into the pro game without hiccup. The wins piled up quickly and his skill-set was apparent from the outset. Not only could men not handle his blazing hand-speed, but his movement and defense had men befuddled. Of course, you don’t hold credentials like his if you can’t defend yourself, and there is little doubt from contemporary witnesses that Warren is one of the best defenders in fistiana.
It took a mere thirteen bouts to get a crack at one of the best fighters in his division. Juan Carlos Payano was not only highly-rated, but like Warren, he was also an exemplary amateur. Payano also carried around the nickname, “Baby Pacquiao”. Quite the compliment.

When Warren and Payano squared off, it was what seems to be a rarity—two men with under twenty fights letting loose for a trinket. But it turned out to be a hard-nosed affair, with Payano roughhousing and Warren targeting counters, both on the inside and outside. Each man received point deductions, which helped stir emotion, but Warren managed a knockdown in the 12th and final segment. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough and the Dominican earned a tight points verdict.

The rematch was set a little over 10 months later, and this time, Warren wouldn’t be denied. The ensuing contest was again closely fought, but Warren had a better game plan—he moved better, gained distance and potshotted. He outfought Payano in almost every quarter and was simply too fast and smart. The judges rendered a majority decision in the former Olympian’s favor and paved the way to more lucrative bouts.

Before securing fights with the very best, however, he has decided to take on a live underdog in Ricky Hatton-trained, Zhanat Zhakiyanov. “ZZ” is an aggressor, much like other boxers who hail from old Soviet possessions. And like them, he can crack. His kayo over Karim Guerfi was scary business and worth a watch if you want to know what he is about.

The eye test seems to indicate that Warren is a notch above Zhakiyanov and should gain a clear win here. From there, he states, the best of the best are on notice and may be getting a call shortly.

One can only hope that Shinsuke Yamanaka is on the menu.