Collazo stages return to ring
Story by Mariano A. Agmi
Photo by Big Joe Miranda
On Tuesday, September 29, 2009, Fightnews caught-up with Luis Collazo’s trainer and manager, Nirmal Lorick, to find out when the former WBA welterweight champion was returning to the ring.
“We have a purse bid set for the Berto rematch on Wednesday,” stated Lorick.
On January 17, 2009, Collazo (30-4, 15 KOs) came in as an underdog to surprise and narrowly lose to WBC Welterweight champion Andre Berto. The combatants thrilled fans in a give and take war which Berto won by a razor thin unanimous decision (114-113 on two cards and an unrealistic 116-111 turned in by Bill Clancy). While the press and fans alike commended both pugilists for their efforts in a highly skilled bout that many thought Collazo won, HBO admitted the fight was an early candidate for fight of the year.
However, an eagerly anticipated rematch has been a hard sell at HBO. The network would not offer significantly more money for the rematch than they did the original encounter. As a result, the WBC granted Berto an exception to fight IBF Jr. Welterweight titlist Juan Urango with the understanding that the winner must fight Collazo next as a mandatory challenger.
“The WBC contacted us and asked if we were interested in fighting for the interim title against Selcuk Aydin while Berto faced Urango. We were interested, provided that Berto was mandated to fight the winner next or give up the title so that we could fight Aydin for that and not an ‘interim title’,” states Lorick. “Berto’s people didn’t offer any step aside money, and there were no negotiations unless it was done through Don King, but Don wasn’t letting us know anything. So that’s when we got our lawyer, Willie Bradley, and he started contacting Don and the WBC. Since then, the WBC voted unanimously that Luis should be the mandatory.”
For the past few months, Lorick has been working feverishly with attorney Willie Bradley and matchmaker Andrew Stokes to ensure that Collazo is able to enforce his position as Berto’s mandatory for the WBC title.
“We have a promoter that isn’t doing anything for us, so we had to work on this mandatory ourselves. Once I got Willie Bradley involved, the WBC stepped up and let everyone know that Luis is the mandatory to Berto’s WBC title. The WBC’s letter is now in Berto’s advisor Al Haymon’s hands and his promoter Lou DiBella’s hands, and this needs to be out in public so people know what’s going on.”
SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
Former WBA welterweight champion Luis Collazo has consistently risen to the occasion on the biggest stages in boxing. In 2005, Collazo took short money on short notice to capture the WBA title from Jose Antonio “El Gallo” Rivera, in Rivera’s home state of Massachusetts. After a technical knockout of former lightweight standout Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Collazo lost his title in a hotly disputed unanimous decision against Ricky Hatton in Boston, in a fight where Luis got up from a first round flash knockdown to frustrate and hurt Hatton as the fight came to a close. Collazo was rewarded for his gallant effort with a fight against future hall of famer “Sugar” Shane Mosley in 2007. Despite a competitive first few rounds, Collazo injured his left hand and was no match for Mosley’s speed and power without his biggest weapon.
In almost every sport and profession, a person who has talent, works hard, shows loyalty, and gives his best effort every time out is rewarded with higher profile opportunities, additional money and widespread recognition. However, in the wacky world of boxing, a less marketable fighter who makes a fight a little too close for comfort is often avoided like the plague for his efforts in favor of opponents with big names who pose a lesser risk.
This is the conundrum that Luis Collazo finds himself in. The Brooklyn-born New Yorican southpaw is a slick fighter with all around skills that represents too much risk for too little a reward for most elite welterweights. Collazo has consistently provided fans with his all every time out, often fighting in his opponent’s hometown for less money with the hope that a win could propel him to bigger and better opportunities. Instead, Luis has been the victim of very close fights going the other way and while he has been largely ignored and sidelined for his efforts in competitive fights in his weight class, fighters like Floyd Mayweather are paid millions of dollars to cherry-pick smaller opponents in high profile events.
“These catch-weight fights are ridiculous,” states Lorick. “Marquez came up from 135lbs to fight Floyd who came in at 146lbs. If Floyd is a welterweight and is really great, I want to see him fight elite welterweights like Mosley, Joshua Clottey, Cotto and Luis. I think these are the top guys in the welterweight division. If you beat them, I’ll say you’re the greatest of this era.”
While it has always been the case that fighters with the biggest names can and will dictate whom they are going to fight, what really surprises Lorick is HBO’s reluctance to pay for a sequel to a fight that was so competitive the first time around: “This is what’s ruining boxing. I haven’t seen any fights this year as competitive as Collazo-Berto and HBO is paying these guys millions of dollars for what, one-sided fights?”
It is true that the last several mega-fights involving Pacquiao, Mayweather, Hatton and De La Hoya have generated hundreds of millions of dollars for HBO, the promoters and the fighters. However, these same fights have been such one-sided drubbings or have had such terrible undercards that it is a wonder that casual fans are coming back for more.
These “events” are what is puzzling to Lorick as well as many of the once hardcore boxing fans whom have eventually turned their back on the sport after years of suffering through gross mismatches, blatant hometown decisions and elite fighters picking opponents they can handle easily in favor of facing true challenges that have the potential to become breath taking tests of will. It is this irrational and short-sighted business practice that kills the sport from the inside-out. Lorick explains: “Look at Victor Ortiz – I have nothing against him, but he just got knocked out. Luis is coming off a potential fight of the year. Golden Boy hand picks opponents for Ortiz and now he ran into a guy that knocked him out, and two months later he’ll be back on the network. So what criteria do you have to meet to satisfy HBO’s standards? How do you put on a guy who just got knocked out by a hand-picked opponent over a guy who’s been proving himself over and over and they know got robbed and can put on a show?”
Let’s just hope that the promoters do the right thing on Wednesday, September 30th and this rematch is picked up by one of the major networks so that a talented fighter can resume practicing his trade and the sport can take a step in the right direction. Competitive fights are what should rule the day and regardless of which fighter wins or loses, the fans always win when the competition is honest and standards are set where only matchups truly worthy of television are picked up by the major networks.