COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — No doubt this time.
No judges left to rule. No storming out of the ring in dismay. No threats of abandoning his pursuit of Olympic gold for the riches of pro boxing.
Only relief and redemption.
"I'm back!" two-time Olympian Rau'Shee Warren declared Saturday night, after winning his fourth national title by dominating Miguel Cartagena of Philadelphia at the U.S. boxing championships. Cartagena's corner stopped the fight in the second of three rounds following the fighter's third standing eight-count.
The score at the time was 19-1, and it probably wasn't even that close.
"I'm just happy I made it to the finals," Cartagena said. "You can't say I lost to a bum."
Warren, a 23-year-old from Cincinnati, lost a tiebreaker in last year's semifinals and stormed out of the ring, insisting there was no way in the world he had been beaten by Jesus Magdaleno of Las Vegas.
He said that bitter defeat fueled him on this night.
"I felt relief because I was like, 'I'm back. I'm back to No. 1,'" Warren said.
He came out and hit Cartagena with a flurry of hooks, jabs, power punches and body blows. Piling up the points to the thrill of the crowd at a hotel ballroom, Warren was relentless.
"I just kept my focus, kept my composure and just kept coming," he said. "I was connecting real well as far as my punches because I've got the speed, and I would deliver my speed and then deliver my power and then it was just keep going after him."
Warren, who won titles in 2005-07 with bookend triumphs at the U.S. Olympic trials in 2004 and '08, had threatened to turn pro after his loss at last year's championships. Instead, he stayed in the amateur ranks with hopes of becoming the first three-time Olympic boxer in U.S. history — and winning his first gold medal.
Now, he doesn't have to choose between money and glory, either.
Warren is one of a handful of U.S. boxers who have agreed to participate in the World Series of Boxing, a newly formed league set to start in November that allows fighters to compete in a modified pro setup and still maintain their Olympic eligibility.
Not only was he the marquee boxer at nationals, but he was also the anomaly — 11 of the 20 male boxers are teenagers, including a slew of 17- and 18-year-olds who have dominated their elders this year after graduating from the junior ranks.
Before the fights, a moment of silence was held for George Steinbrenner, whose death Tuesday at age 80 was felt deeply in Olympic circles, where he played an active role. His memory was honored with a 10-count, the ringside bell ticking off the seconds as the boxers stood with their heads bowed in the dimmed ring.
Cartagena figured before his super-flyweight fight that he couldn't lose, reasoning that nobody expected him to beat a two-time Olympian and an upset would make him toast of the town.
At the news conference Friday, he stood eyeball-to-eyeball with Warren, who smirked as Cartagena even pressed his forehead against his.
Warren likes a challenger, but this one wasn't close.
"I couldn't figure out when he was going to throw it and how he was going to throw it," said Cartagena, who won nationals at 106 pounds last summer. "He's a hell of a fighter. It was his day, his fight, not mine."
Warren said this is the type of fight he has to have every time out if he's going to be a serious contender for Olympic gold in London — and if he's going to avoid ever again leaving an outcome up in the air like he did a year ago.
"It's not me fighting against the opponent, it's me fighting against the judges, because at the end of the day, I'm just going for points, no matter what," Warren said.
"Don't leave no doubts in the ring."
In other fights:
—Louie Byrd, 19, of Denver, the two-time defending champion at the defunct 112 pounds, won the new 108-pound division 31-15 over Diego Hurtado, 23, of Sparks, Nev.
—Joseh Diaz Jr., of Elmonte, Calif., defeated Ricky Rodriguez of Evans, Colo., 9-4 in a 123-pound fight between 17-year-olds.
—Jose Ramirez, 17, of Avenal, Calif., won a tiebreaker over Eric Flores, 18, of Inglewood, Calif., in the lightweight division. The fight ended tied at 4 points each.
—Welterweight Pedro Sosa, 18, of the Bronx, N.Y., outpointed Michael Reed, 17, of Waldorf, Md., 13-11.
—Errol Spence, 20, of DeSoto, Texas, beat Alex Martin, 21, of Joliet, Ill., in the 152-pound fight that was scored on paper because of a malfunction in the electronic scoring system. Four judges gave the win to Spence and one favored Martin.
—Luis Arias, 20, of Milwaukee, upset Jesse Hart, 21, of Marquette, Mich., for the super middleweight title on a tiebreaker after the round ended in a 4-4 tie.
—In a mild upset at 178 pounds, Jeffrey Spencer, 28, of Fort Carson, Colo., beat Robert Brant, 19, of Oakdale, Minn., 10-9.
—Steve Geffard, 19, of Boca Raton, Fla., dominated his heavyweight bout, beating Sijuola Shabazz, 25, of Las Cruces, N.M. 15-6.
—And Lenroy "Cam" Thompson, 21, of Lenexa, Kansas, won his second super heavyweight title, beating Danny Kelly, 19, of Washington, D.C., 8-5.