Rau’shee Warren will make history at the upcoming London Olympics by becoming the first U.S. boxer to be a three-time Olympian. His trips to Athens and Beijing ended in disappointment, but the flyweight (52 kg) is determined to win his first medal in London.
Rau’shee Warren, fresh off a world championship, was a medal favorite at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But he lost a controversial decision in his opening bout in the 52-kilogram class to South Korea’s Lee Ok-sung. Thinking he was far ahead on points, Warren danced around Lee and stopped throwing hard punches in the closing seconds. When the judges scored the bout 9-8 for Lee, Warren was crushed.
The loss motivated him to remain an amateur boxer and train harder for the London Games.
“So my coach has been kind of putting me in training for nine minutes, we [were] fighting three minutes each round, he wanted me to not rest and not break [for] nine minutes straight with my opponent, like as far as with my training partner if I’m in the gym, he wanted me to go all out, and not get tired in the ring," said Warren.
Warren is hoping to benefit from nearly two decades of training. Growing up in a rough, impoverished neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio, he emulated his three brothers, all amateur boxers, and stepped in the ring at age six. He was so small he was often matched against larger boys, but he won his first amateur fight at age eight.
Now 25, he says fighting older and possibly stronger opponents helped him develop his skills.
“It helped me do a lot because I was learning all the small things as far as stepping with the jab and using the combinations, and bobbing, weaving, plus I was watching a lot of people growing up before me that were in the gym like Ricardo Williams," he said. "He was a silver medalist at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.”
Warren also watched tapes of another U.S. boxer Pernell Whitaker, a gold medalist at the 1984 Olympics who won pro championships in four weight divisions.
At age 17, Warren had qualified for the U.S. Olympic boxing team in Athens as a light flyweight at 49 kilograms, making him the youngest U.S. male at those Games in any sport. He lost in the first round, just like he did four years later in his humbling defeat as a favorite in Beijing.
Now it is on to London, where he will likely raise a few eyebrows with his new patch of brightly colored red hair.
“You know, I'm just trying to set a trend, just doing something different with my hair and just knowing that if nobody remembers my name, they’re going to remember the boy with the red hair," he said.
Should Warren win a medal in London, his mother, Paulette, will be wearing it. Paulette has been a big inspiration in his life and, after his loss in Beijing, she helped convince him to try out for his third Olympic games rather than turn professional. Warren has expressed an interest in doing so after the 2012 London Games.
“Whatever I decided to do she was with it, and I told her I wanted to go back again because I wanted to get that medal and put it around her neck," said Warren. "Just the struggle that we’ve been going through, that, right there, would complete my trophy case. And by giving that to her, I could move on to bigger and better things.”
For now, Rau’shee Warren’s goal is to bring home an Olympic boxing medal. And he has a good chance to do it.