“Unlucky Louie” Loses Another Disputed Decision
Story by Mariano A. Agmi
Photos by Scott Foster
2009 got off to a great start at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss. on Saturday, as young WBC titlist Andre Berto engaged former WBA champion Luis Collazo in an all-action welterweight war to determine whether the 2004 Haitian Olympian is ready to compete with the elite of the division.
The welterweight fight was yet another scintillating affair in a packed division that has already produced such memorable match-ups as Williams-Margarito, Margarito-Cotto and Cotto-Mosley. On this HBO Boxing After Dark telecast, Berto’s speed and flash were on display against the guile and technical proficiency of a former champion eager to reclaim a spot near the top of the welterweight ladder. The winner of the bout would surely claim the right to continue the division standard of the best fighting the best.
Instead, fans were treated to an early candidate for “Fight of the Year” that left more than a few spectators wondering if the right fighter received the nod. In the end, Berto (24-0, 19 KOs) showed championship-level toughness in winning the last round to take a razor-thin unanimous decision (114-113 twice and a ridiculous 116-111). Fightnews.com scored the bout 114-113 for the challenger.
Unfortunately for Collazo, dropping a close decision is nothing new, as the slick southpaw lost his title and an even more disputed decision to 140-lb British superstar Ricky Hatton in 2006. On Tuesday afternoon, Fightnews.com spoke one-on-one with Collazo (29-4, 14 KOs) about yet another tough loss.
Things began well for the New Yorker, as a flush left hand to Berto’s chin in the first round nearly floored the champion.
“I knew [Berto] was vulnerable to my straight left," said Collazo. "So I threw a double jab and the left to see if it would land and it did.”
The classy southpaw wisely chose not to go for broke so early in the bout, choosing to preserve his energy instead for what turned out to be a grueling battle.
“I thought it might be an early night, but it was too early for me to capitalize off stunning him so I kept my composure.”
Berto held on to survive the onslaught and later fired a few power shots of his own to end the round.
The bout was a constant ebb-and-flow featuring numerous changes in strategy and the intangibles that make for a great fight, as each fighter had to overcome exhaustion and nullify the natural advantages of the other to win. While Collazo employed a furious pace and body attack to dominate Berto early as they fought on the inside, Berto created the distance necessary for his speed to take over the bout in the middle rounds.
In assessing Berto’s speed, Collazo emphasized that there is a distinct difference in receiving a punch you can anticipate from one that you can barely avoid:
“In the Hatton fight, Ricky telegraphs his punches so I had more time to bite down and tighten up before I got hit. On the other hand, Berto is so fast that it was all reflexes against him.”
However, after watching the HBO telecast numerous times since Saturday, Luis cannot come up with more than 6 rounds to give the champion:
“I looked at it from Berto’s perspective to see if he could have won the fight, but to be honest, there’s no way I could give it to him.”
The 27-year-old believes that his body attack combined with the constant pressure he applied were more than enough to win the decision.
“Most of my output was body shots. The judges had to see that. I threw over 200 punches more than he did in the fight, and almost every body shot I threw landed.”
However, Berto landed a few good body shots of his own in round seven that had the former champ folded over with his hands resting on his knees for much of rounds seven and eight:
“He caught me with kidney shots twice – they caught me off guard and took the air out of me. So I relaxed and dropped my hands to try to loosen up my back.”
With his corner imploring him not to let Berto back in the fight, Collazo dug deep in rounds nine and ten to force Berto back to infighting, where the southpaw enjoyed a clear advantage. Surprisingly, it was the smaller Collazo who was walking down a tiring Berto in those rounds.
Perhaps sensing that his title reign was in jeopardy, Berto unleashed a two-fisted attack to turn the tide yet again in the championship rounds. Collazo felt that he could have boxed his way to victory, but instead chose to engage the champion.
“I didn’t really have to bang it out with him," said Collazo. "I felt like I had enough rounds in the bag for me to just box, but the type of fighter I am, I just want to go out there and leave it all in the ring.”
Win or lose, that is really all we can expect from a fighter. And after giving so much of themselves in an attempt to reach the pinnacle of their sport and earn a living, it is understandable that a fighter would be demoralized after losing such a close decision.
“It’s like the Ricky Hatton fight all over again,” stated Collazo. “It hurts, but it motivates me to get out there and perform at another level next time around.”
Instead of mulling over another missed opportunity, Collazo is optimistic that Berto will remain open to a rematch:
“I would love to do it again – I believe I came out with the victory. I didn’t get it on paper, but deep down inside, everyone knows the truth.”
The fight was certainly competitive and intriguing enough to merit a rematch. Lou DiBella, Berto’s promoter, stated immediately after the fight that “Berto and Collazo began 2009 with a bang. It’s clear why Luis Collazo won a world title and why he gave Ricky Hatton fits.”
With Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron now campaigning in the 154-lb division and Margarito, Cotto and Mosley busy for most of the year vying for the top of the division, Berto may not have many attractive options other than a rematch with Collazo or a unification bout with IBF titlist Joshua Clottey.
Collazo is also willing to fight either champion, or anyone else, to prove his championship mettle:
“I want this rematch, but I know it might take some time. I want to fight the best welterweights in the world. Whoever the fans and critics think is the best, that’s who I want to fight.”
It is this type of attitude that makes the welterweight division the best in boxing.