Late in the second round of the fight, Victor Ortiz let loose a wild right hook and Luis Collazo could see it coming. He dodged it and struck back with his own right, tight and quick. The punch caught Ortiz on the jaw and he tumbled to the canvas.
The 8,000 or so in the Barclays Center stands erupted, roaring for their homeborough prizefighter as the referee began his count.
One … two …
The big stage had punished Collazo with disappointment after disappointment. He’d seemed trapped on the sport’s middle rungs, resigned to watching opponents of equal talent soar passed, toward the riches and name recognition reserved for few boxers. He’d accumulated enough missed opportunities, lost enough main events, to get slapped with that dreaded label: journeyman.
And now here was this journeyman from Brooklyn, seconds away from the biggest victory of his career.
Three … four …
The fight had still been developing. The pugilistic chess match had not yet emerged. Ortiz had bounced around and swung his fists, and Collazo had felt him out, shuffling and jabbing, measuring.
While each fighter’s history suggested a stylistic contrast between brawler and technician, Collazo warned earlier in the week, “If he wants to dance, I’ll be the bull.” Bold words for a boxer who had earned a knockout in fewer than half of his 39 profession bouts.
Five … six …
There was no doubt Ortiz would want to dance. He has always been the sort of fighter eager to take two shots to give three. It was a mindset that propelled him to the top of the welterweight division, to a favored spot within the Golden Boy stable, to a lucrative pay-per-view battle with Floyd Mayweather Jr., to the level of fame required for an appearance on Dancing with the Stars.
But boxing fame is fragile, and two consecutive unimpressive losses can derail the most promising careers. Ortiz needed a good showing in this one.
Seven … eight …
Collazo had had his chances to vault into the welterweight elite. He was close once, briefly, holding the WBA world title for a year almost a decade ago. Then came a series of setbacks — narrow defeats to Andre Berto and Ricky Hatton, a lopsided schooling against Shane Mosley, and an unfortunate loss to Freddy Hernandez.
But while those names have faded, Collazo has continued his grind, stringing together enough wins to keep him in contention. The welterweight division is deep with talent: Marcos Maidana, Amir Khan, Adrian Broner, Devon Alexander, Robert Guerrero, Paul Malignaggi, Brandon Rios.
Nine … Ten! DingDingDing.
Celebration. People fill the ring. Hugs and back pats all around. Collazo at the center of it all. He has now won all four of his fights in Brooklyn.
Amid the revelry, a microphone appears before his face. And Collazo says what a journeyman could never say:
“I want Floyd Mayweather! In New York City!”
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha