Luis Collazo grew up in Williamsburg and learned to box he was 10. At 13, his family moved to East New York, so he trained at the Starrett City Boxing Club, the legendary gym that produced Shannon Briggs and Zab Judah, among other talents.
Over the next two decades, Collazo blossomed into a solid professional fighter, with a gritty, tough, subdued approach good enough to win him the WBA Welterweight world title in 2005 and keep him in contention since.
His record is modest at first glance: five losses and just 17 knockouts in 39 professional fights. But a second, longer look shows that three of those losses came against Andre Berto, Ricky Hatton, and Shane Mosley–popular names who have spent time within sport’s elite ranks. And many who watched will tell you that Collazo actually beat Berto and Hatton.
Tonight Collazo fights in Brooklyn for the fourth time in three years, for a special Thursday-night boxing card at Barclays, broadcast on Fox Sports 1. He easily won the three previous home-borough bouts, but this next opponent is Victor Ortiz, the hard-swinging former-rising star with, more or less, his career on the line.
It’s on the line because Ortiz’s last two fights were high-profile, disappointing losses. In September 2011 he had a pay-per-view mega-fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. He was just starting to catch a rhythm in the fourth round when he headbutted Mayweather, sparking the infamous sequence of events punctuated by a knockout shot to Ortiz’s jaw.
The following June, he took on Josesito Lopez, a little known (outside of hardcore boxing circles) slugger fresh off a loss. It was the sort of match-up we see in boxing all the time: a spirited warm-up meant to spring board the big name back into the mega-fights with an exciting victory. But Lopez broke Ortiz’s jaw in the ninth round and Ortiz told the referee he could not continue. He had been ahead on every judge’s scorecard.
A year and a half later, Ortiz’s future remains promising. He turns 27 on Friday and his free-wheeling aggression makes him a constant presence in fight-of-the-year debates. With an appearance on Dancing with the Stars on his resume, he’s the rare boxer to become a household name. In other words, he still holds the potential to earn lots of money for his Golden Boy promotional team.
All that’s only possible, however, after an impressive showing against Collazo.
Of course, if Ortiz learned anything from the Lopez fight, it’s that all the promotional backing in the world can’t soften an opponent’s punches.
Collazo is no tomato can. His name tends to get lost in the welterweight division’s deep pool of talent, but his iron chin and sound counter-punching can confound opponents. Beyond that, he’s no stranger to big fights. In 2007, he fought Mosley in Vegas, losing a clear unanimous decision. He waged close battles with Hatton, in 2006, and Berto, in 2009, but both times the judges’ scorecards let him down.
So you can imagine his huger. His career is on the line too.
“This fight is for my future,” Collazo said at a press conference on Monday. “I’m trying not to look past it, but this victory here means everything to me. It means I have a future. If not, I have to start all over again from scratch.”
He expects Ortiz will bring firepower: “If he wants to dance, I’ll be the bull.”