It was a difficult contest for the judges, and audience, last night at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL but after 12 rounds of intense combat, WBA super bantam boss Juan Carlos Payano was awarded a split decision verdict over Rau'shee Warren.
Head clashes led to Payano lifting the WBA crown from long-time champ Anselmo Moreno by technical decision last September and there were plenty of those last night with Dominican southpaw Payano cut in several locations as a result.
Payano spent the fight aggressively going after Warren, who found a way to deal with the pressure most of the time and get his own offense going as well.
This was an ugly contest, with Payano losing a point for punching the back of Warren's head in the third frame while Warren lost two points for hitting the champion after he had slipped to the mat in the ninth.
There were low blows, shoving and tackles in addition to a lot of connected punches during this one and when the bout had mercifully come to a close after 12 rounds, the scores were announced as 115-109 for Warren and 113-111 twice for Payano, who won the split decision.
Payano improves to 17-0 (8) while Warren suffers his first career loss and now stands at 13-1 (4).
Given the nature of the bout, there could be a rematch mandated by the WBA but if the pair fought again, would it just be another debacle for the judges to unravel?
Chief support for the card was provided by two light middleweight ten rounders.
John Jackson, 20-2 (15), son of former two-weight world champion Julian Jackson, dropped the much shorter veteran Dennis Laurente, 49-6-5 (30), in the third round on the way to posting a 100-89 points win on all three cards.
Jorge Cota, 25-1 (22), outfought Yudel Jhonson, 17-2 (9), in a barnburner that saw Cota come from behind and take a 96-91, 96-91, 95-92 UD, helped along by knockdowns in the eighth and ninth rounds of Jhonson, who lost a point in the sixth.