THERE was mild controversy surrounding the split decision Juan Carlos Payano earned over Rau’shee Warren in August. The Dominican earned scores of 113-111 on two cards while the third gave the fight to Warren on a 115-109 tally.

It was a close, and fairly ugly, fight though Warren’s insistence that he deserved the nod was not completely unfounded. While he out-landed the WBA bantamweight champion, Warren’s work was consistently smothered by the swarming Payano whose workrate made things awkward for the young American.

Though Warren decked Payano in the 12th and final round, he had been docked two points in the ninth for infringements.

As such, the pair will go again tomorrow night (June 18) at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois.

It was a fairly hastily arranged rematch, despite it coming 10 months after their first meeting, and slightly unexpected, given the WBA’s ruling that Payano must face their secondary champion Jamie McDonnell.

Thw two southpaws were standout amateurs but only met once in the unpaid ranks, Warren coming out on top. The 29-year-old competed at three separate Olympic Games, though failed to medal at all of them. Payano competed at two but also came up short.

However, they both found success outside of the Olympics, with Warren winning two bronze and one gold medal at the World championships while Payano picked up two silver Pan American Games medals.

Warren had been relatively inexperienced before he fought Payano, having made easy work of the 13 foes he had dispatched. However he fought Juan Carlos evenly over the 12 and proved he belongs at this level. Indeed, he also would have learned a lot against the 32-year-old, who picked up his title on a six-round technical decision over the tricky Anselmo Moreno.

Payano used his physical strength to impose himself on Warren, who kept finding himself in clinches and being out-worked on the inside. Warren must use his adept footwork to keep Payano from pinning him down, though they both have an identical reach (64.5ins) meaning if he can establish his jab, Warren could dictate things from range.

However the champion enjoys working at a fast pace while Warren, frankly, does not. This was the main reason Payano retained his title last time and it’s the area in which Warren will need to make the most adjustments.

Warren is clearly the more polished of the two, but his lack of power and unwillingness to sit down on his punches meant that Payano was happy to keep wading forward back in August. However Payano is still a talented technician, and had plenty of success with his jab in their first fight. He was also the one forcing the action last time out, which looked to have played well with the judges.

It’s likely to be another very close affair, but Payano should retain his title on another razor-thin decision.