Boxing

Warren watches nationals with Olympic spot secure

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FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP)

The biggest name in amateur boxing had the best seat in the house as he rooted on boxers all week instead of knocking them down.

His spot for the 2012 London Games already secured, soon-to-be three-time Olympian Rau'shee Warren wasn't required to lace up his gloves at U.S. championships.

So, he took it easy.

Good thing, too, because Warren really wasn't in any condition to step into the ring. He damaged tissue in his left hand during his last fight in January and hurt his right biceps muscle in a recent sparring session.

But his voice was in fine working order.

So Warren screamed and hollered as he raced from ring-to-ring to check out the action.

For a change, the flyweight was a fan enjoying the show, not headlining it.

''I'm learning so much by just watching,'' the 25-year-old Warren said. ''This is great. I'm just hanging out and being me.''

Part of being Warren is working the room.

He's a celebrity at nationals and can hardly blend in. Once spotted, Warren was stopped for quick hugs, handshakes and chats, not to mention asked to sign his name to anything handy. He appreciated all the attention.

After all, this just might be the last trip to the championships for the four-time national winner. His intention is to turn pro after the Olympics.

''Got to go pro. Got to knock some people out,'' Warren said.

The knock on Warren has been his lack of an explosive punch, which could hinder him on the next level.

Bring that up, and he just rolls his eyes. Warren has heard that criticism countless times and quickly counters with this: The only reason he jabs so much and constantly dances around the ring is because of the amateur scoring system.

He's far more interested in points than power.

Want to see him hit harder? Just stay tuned.

''In this game, the amateurs, you can't rely on power,'' Warren explained. ''You've got to get points and get out. It's good, solid blows to the body. You keep them coming until you break them down.

''Soon, the world will get to see a different Rau'shee Warren.''

He's in no rush to embark on his next adventure, savoring every step of his journey to the London Games.

Warren earned his spot on the team by winning the Olympic trials last summer and then - as part of the qualifying process - validating it through a third-place finish at world championships. He was one of three champions at the trials to retain their spot with a solid showing at worlds, joining bantamweight Joseph Diaz Jr. and welterweight Errol Spence.

The other seven champions from the trials surrendered their spots by not faring well at worlds and have to earn them again, with nationals just the first step on the road to the Olympics. Whoever wins the weight divisions that are still up for grabs also need to place high at a qualifier this May in Brazil to officially earn their ticket.

So, while some boxers were stressing this week, Warren was leisurely watching.

He kept darting in between bouts, keeping an eye on featherweight Raynell Williams, a teammate on the 2008 Olympic squad and later checking out hard-punching light heavyweight Marcus Browne. Warren also made sure to catch the action of Jamel Herring, the light welterweight who's completed two tours of duty with the Marine Corps, deploying to Iraq in 2005 and `07.

''Those guys have been fighting good,'' Warren said. ''You've got to respect them as fighters because they always find a way to win.''

Warren thought about stepping into the ring this week, possibly even moving up nine pounds to 123 just to squeeze in some work.

That idea was quashed by his bumps and bruises. He hurt his hand while fighting in the World Series of Boxing, a team competition contested without headgear and with professional-style scoring.

Then, while sparring back home in Cincinnati, Ohio, his biceps muscle began bothering him, leading Warren to shut down his training.

Well, not entirely.

Since there's nothing wrong with his legs, he's been logging extra miles on the treadmill.

This also keeps him in shape: Keeping up his two boys, Rau'shee Jr. (4 years old) and Rue'shee (9 months).

To curb his boxing craving, he's been attending fights. He recently traveled to St. Louis to watch good friend Adrien Broner retain his WBO junior lightweight title with a fourth-round knockout of Eloy Perez. Broner, who's also from Cincinnati, improved to 23-0.

Ever step into the ring with Broner?

''When we were younger,'' said Warren, who is 16 pounds lighter than Broner. ''Now that we're older, we don't want to take no chances of hurting each other. The last time we sparred, it felt like he had bricks in his gloves.''

A young fan approached Warren, eager to chat about all things boxing. Warren happily obliged, relishing his star status.

Even outside the ring at nationals, he's still the king.

''This is what I've been doing for a while now,'' Warren said. ''It's a job, but it's still a lot of fun.''

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