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Collazo challenges Mayweather

Story by Mariano A. Agmi
Photo by Big Joe Miranda

The boxing year got off to a great start on January 17, 2009, when Luis Collazo challenged Andre Berto in a nip-and-tuck battle that many felt was a “Fight of the Year” candidate.

After 12 hard fought rounds where each fighter gave as good as he got, Andre Berto retained his WBC welterweight title by a narrow unanimous decision.

Collazo continues to receive positive feedback for his performance:

“Everywhere I go, people congratulate me for a good fight. I hear time and time again, ‘Louie, you beat Berto,’” says Collazo. “I had a great training camp and I felt really strong, so I didn’t just choose to box. I went to the body and I pushed him back to everyone’s surprise.”

One would think that a challenger who pushed a young champion to the brink of losing his title in a high caliber, exciting performance on HBO would be rewarded with another opportunity, right?

Instead, former WBA welterweight champion Luis Collazo is once again training for the sake of staying in shape while Andre Berto defends his title against the smaller, less technical Juan Urango in May.

Collazo will likely have to wait until the fall to get a chance to avenge his loss to Berto. This is due in large part to his team filing a protest on behalf of Collazo with the WBC. As a result of the protest, the organization decided to make Collazo the mandatory challenger for Berto’s title.

To his credit, promoter Lou DiBella praised each fighter’s effort after the bout and stated that although perhaps not immediate, the bout deserved a rematch and one would likely happen in September 2009.

But if the first fight was widely acclaimed and all the other welterweights are busy fighting one another, why is Team Berto electing to take on a 140-lb titlist instead of engaging in a highly anticipated rematch in their own division?

“They’re trying to get the southpaw feel, but they won’t find a southpaw as slick as me,” says Collazo. “Still, they have to be careful, Urango can also punch.”

Collazo is not arguing that the rematch happen at this very moment. What Team Collazo is rightfully requesting is that the fighter receive an opportunity to do what he is supposedly paid to do: fight.

“Louie has to make a move now before he gets older,” states Nirmal Lorick, Collazo’s trainer and advisor since the Nuyorican fighter walked into the Starrett City Boxing Club at 11-years-old, “we need a promoter and television to support us – give Luis Collazo a date and let him get his confidence back. Invest in him a little.”

It is well known throughout the boxing industry that Don King, who promotes Collazo, does not yield the considerable power he once did when his company ruled the Heavyweights. King Don Productions has spent the last few years doing less promoting and more renting out of its talent to serve as “B” sides for other promoters to match with their stars. As a result, Collazo, who has a year and a half left on his contract with King, receives big opportunities against Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and Berto, but can’t seem to have a close decision go his way or land his own television date to build his fan-base and keep his skills sharp.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Ideally, Lorick would have liked for Collazo and Berto to share a card in May against different opponents to set up their rematch in September. Since this scenario is out of the picture, Lorick has another idea that would bring the 27-year-old former champion a shot at more than redemption: “Since we can’t get a rematch with either Hatton or Berto, the two guys we already thought we beat, I would like to match Collazo’s skills against Floyd Mayweather.”

Mayweather, the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world when he retired, has announced that he will return to the ring in July for a tune-up bout before he takes on bigger and more lucrative challenges. Since Mayweather stated that he’d like pay-per-view money for a regular HBO appearance, how about Luis Collazo as an opponent?

There are several arguments one can make for why a bout with Collazo makes sense for “Pretty Boy’s” return bout. First, the current pound-for-pound king, Manny Pacquiao, is also a southpaw. Floyd has not faced a southpaw since Zab Judah in 2006, a bout where Judah gave Mayweather all he could handle for the first four rounds. Second, a bout between Pacquiao and Mayweather is likely to take place in the welterweight division. Finally, HBO should require that Floyd fight a live opponent if he is to be paid “PPV” money in July, and most of the top welterweights are already booked through the summer.

Collazo seems to meet all of these requirements: he is a slick southpaw that happens to be a real welterweight and has the sufficient name recognition to merit another HBO appearance, especially because he has a track record of providing fans with good performances against the best in the division.

Most importantly, Luis Collazo is an honest fighter who is at the gym early in the morning multiple times a week at a time when he does not have a fight scheduled. Like Joshua Clottey, Paul Williams, Nate Campbell, Humberto Soto, Glen Johnson, Cory Spinks, Celestino Caballero, Sergio Martinez, and countless others, Collazo deserves a chance not just to win a title but also to make enough money to provide for his family and compete to be the best in his profession. Any of the aforementioned fighters will tell you that they would eagerly fight anyone to prove they are the best in the sport, but that it’s the popular fighters with “swag” that end up getting the better deals and opportunities.

The networks, promoters and media have the power and should have the decency to balance the often conflicting worlds of money and competition that govern the “sport” of boxing. When the economy is down, these worlds seem to come together to produce competitive fights between the elite of the sport. But on too many occasions, quality fighters are left to wait their careers away while they toil in obscurity, hoping for that elusive shot at a champion or one of the moneymakers to validate their careers. Usually, that day comes when the fighter is no longer at his best. Meanwhile, it is evident from the number of household names in boxing that there are only a handful of boxers who “compete” for millions of dollars while the majority sits on the sidelines waiting to be noticed.

However, ask those same blue-collar fighters how they would fare if given the opportunity at the very best in the world and they will respond with something like this:

“I would love to fight Floyd Mayweather. He’s the best fighter in the world,” states Collazo, “but if he wants to tune up against me, I’ll surprise him too.”


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