Luis Collazo last fought in Las Vegas in 2007. He fought Shane Mosely. The WBC welterweight title was at stake and it was Collazo’s first chance at a championship since he lost his WBA welterweight title to Ricky Hatton several months before.
Mosely schooled him, winning a one-sided unanimous decision. The loss knocked Collazo from the division’s circle of serious contenders. For most of the next seven years, Collazo hovered just outside, winning enough to keep higher prospects alive but losing enough to keep them still out of reach.
Then, at the Barclays Center in January, the Brooklyn-native knocked out Victor Ortiz in the second round. Now he is back in the circle. He will fight in Las Vegas next, against Amir Khan on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana pay-per-view on May 3.
It is a big fight, perhaps the biggest of Collazo’s career. You can make the case for many fights he has had, but Collazo is now 32 years old and he is an impressive victory away from a multi-million dollar mega-fight against Mayweather. This is likely his final sprint for the sport’s throne, the final stretch of success from which he can maximize his earning potential as a prizefighter. There will be other paydays after Khan regardless of the outcome, but nothing comes close to a mega-fight purse.
In fact, Collazo’s and Khan’s promoter, Golden Boy, doesn’t use the word “undercard” for this bout. It is a “co-feature.” The great majority of us, of course, will be dropping $60 solely to watch the master craftsman Mayweather battle the relentless slugger Maidana, and some of us won’t take more than a peek at the screen until those two are in the ring together. But Collazo-Khan is a thrilling opening act; and not just an opening act, but a possible contest for the right to ink a contract with the winner of the main event.
Amir Khan (28-3, 19 KOs) is a fine fighter, and much more well-known than Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs), but Collazo has stepped into as good an opportunity as he could have dreamed. At his best Khan is a whirlwind, zipping around opponents and smashing their heads with both hands. He fights with extraordinary heart and seems to love hitting his opponent without caring at all about taking punches himself. He is often reckless. This makes him very exciting to watch, but has also left him exposed to technically sound opponents.
Collazo is a technically sound opponent. It had seemed like he didn’t hit that hard too, but the counter-right-hook that dropped Ortiz looked real hard. Still, while Khan has a somewhat unfair reputation for a soft chin, his main weakness is carelessness. At the peak of his stardom, in late 2011, he lost two straight fights, a razor-thin split decision against Lamont Peterson and an embarrassing fourth-round knockout against Danny Garcia. Peterson showed how a disciplined weaving and counter-punching game plan can exploit Khan’s frenetic pace, and Garcia mastered those lessons.
After that, Khan left trainer Freddie Roach and joined up with Virgil Hunter, the Bay Area guru who developed super middleweight champion Andre Ward into one of the most complete, polished boxers in the world.
Khan won his next two fights, against modest competition. He was not as flashy and dominant as he was during his earlier days, but his footwork was sharper and he paid more attention to defense. It looked like he was still getting used to these adjustments and, perhaps as a result, the bouts were closer than many expected.
So he is not as careless as he once was, but Collazo is also a much better boxer than Khan’s previous two opponents. Khan likes to force action and Collazo has an eye for mistakes.