Thurman-Collazo at the Sundome in the Sunshine State
WBA “regular” welterweight champion Keith Thurman, 25-0 (21) will defend his title on July 11 against former world titlist Luis Collazo, 36-6 (19), at the USF Sundome in Florida in a home game for the “Sunshine State” born and raised Thurman. The main event will air on ESPN (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT) on the network’s new Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) program, a replacement for “Friday Night Fights” in a two-year pact between ESPN and Al Haymon.
Thurman is one of boxing’s hottest fighters, undefeated, confident and trying everything he can to lure pound-for-pound star Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. into the ring before the Flint, Mich.-born superstar retires. While Collazo might not be seen as the marquee win Thurman needs to vault himself into a mega-bout, he can’t sleep on the Queens, New York slickster, who has logged ring time with Andre Berto, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and Victor Ortiz to name a few. Collazo has 15 years as a pro and a lot of high-profile fight experience, so, coming into the bout, he won’t be rattled by the younger, unbeaten Thurman.
Collazo enters the ring off a second round TKO win over Christopher Degollado in April. Thurman last fought in March at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. where he bested Robert Guerrero over 12 rounds in the PBC’s debut event on prime time NBC. It was an impressive performance from Thurman against the iron-tough Guerrero; however, Collazo will bring a much different style to the match. While Collazo can bang and brawl, he is at his best when moving and boxing, working off his speed and elusiveness as opposed to just trying to grind out a win in the trenches.
This will be Thurman’s sixth major title bout. Heading into the bout, he has recorded four WBA interim title victories before being upgraded in his win against Guerrero.
Collazo is mining the welterweight division, a weight class deep in talent. So he knows that looking good is vital. You can’t live off a past resume even if it includes bouts against the division’s best. A decisive loss would be a major setback if he hopes to remain among the elite of the 147-pound class. However, a win over a rising star like Thurman injects a whole lotta life into Collazo’s career at age 34. While this will bring an element of urgency in his approach to the fight, something that might help him elevate his game, he also enters the bout as the clear underdog. In that sense, all the pressure to look good, and show he is indeed one of the best out there, is on Thurman. “One Time” is the favorite and is obviously expected to win. As a result, Collazo enters the bout with nothing, or seemingly less, to lose. So Collazo can relax, fight his fight and hope to slip, slide and box his way to a win over Thurman, who not only wants to win but look good doing it. He wants to look impressive enough to make a case for a future marquee bout (see: Mayweather) in the process.
While the talented Thurman seems to be steamrolling his way through the division, let’s not forget that styles make fights. There are some possible scenarios here that might make this bout more competitive than it would appear on paper. Both camps have weighed in on their thoughts in pre-fight interviews and both appear confident that they will be victorious.
“Floyd Mayweather fought Robert Guerrero for his first fight on the Showtime contract, so me and Floyd already have a common opponent and the world knows that I was able to cause more damage to Guerrero than Floyd was,” said Thurman. “I look forward to doing the same thing to Collazo – giving him more damage than Amir Khan gave him. After this [fight with Collazo], it’s going to be the same as everything. I’m ready for the world. I’m ready for the best fighters in the welterweight division and if that mean Amir Khan, bring it. If that means Shawn Porter, bring it. If that means Floyd Mayweather, bring it.”
Speaking from Team Collazo’s training base in Puerto Rico, Collazo trainer Willie Vargas chimed in, “Luis loves to train in the heat. In addition, for the fight against Amir Khan, we had too many distractions which didn’t allow us to have a proper camp and we decided it was best to get away from everything. Khan’s camp was the worst in the career of Luis and, this time, we did not want to take any risks,” said Vargas. “If Thurman is thinking that Luis will be easy, he is committing a serious error. We will not stay in front of him as his other opponents did. We will use angles. This is a great opportunity for Luis.”
Like Thurman, Collazo knows a win can be the ticket to the autumn Mayweather sweepstakes. “We know that Mayweather will be looking for an opponent for his last fight in September and we would like to be that someone,” said Vargas.
A focused and determined Collazo is anxious to take his shot at the world title and isn’t afraid to battle the champion in his backyard to do it. “If I gotta go to his yard to fight for a world title, that’s what it is,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thurman eyes the mega-fights down the line but knows he can’t look past this challenge. He knows he needs an impressive win if he wants to remain in the Mayweather queue. He also knows he needs to impress his faithful supporters when he’s fighting at home so he can further build his Florida fan base at the same time.
“We want the knockout. But at the end of the day, we want to be champion…My job is to win,” said Thurman. “Everything else is just icing on the cake…I’m happy to be defending my title in my hometown and putting on a show.”
Many fans might feel this fight is a “stay busy” assignment for Thurman who is realistically a level above Collazo at this stage in their careers. But styles make fights and if Collazo is on point, come game night, he may be a surprisingly tough outing for Thurman. However, if Thurman can cut off the ring and impose himself on Collazo, it could be a stoppage loss for Luis as Thurman makes a strong case to be in the “Money” in his next bout.
Questions and comments can be sent to Bill Tibbs at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him at twitter.com/tibbs_bill.