3 More Rounds

Thurman vs. Collazo Fight Preview

Photo: Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions

Photo: Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions

Following in the footsteps of other West Florida based championship fighters like Ronald “Winky” Wright, Antonio Tarver, and Jeff Lacy, Keith “One Time” Thurman has earned the privilege of defending his title in front of his hometown fans. Thurman, 26, and proudly carrying an undefeated record of (25-0, 21 KOs), will defend his WBA welterweight championship title on Saturday against former welterweight titlist, Luis Collazo. The fight will be the main event for the premier episode of the newest and now, only, boxing program being carried on the ESPN network. Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), the now ubiquitous Al Haymon run venture, gets started on ESPN this Saturday night, live from Tampa, Florida at 9:00 p.m. ET.  The venue is the Sun Dome on the University of South Florida campus. Thurman, who is from Clearwater, Florida, is being groomed as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather Jr., both in terms of taking over the 147 pound division, and perhaps, as a future pay per view star. Saturday night is an opportunity for Thurman to make a bold statement on basic cable television for a prime-time audience. Thurman is looking to make a statement, while keeping Tampa’s boxing legacy in mind:

“There are a lot of people who have followed my career that haven’t been able to see me, live in action. The fact that I’m bringing this fight home, I just think about when Winky Wright did it; Jeff Lacy did it; Antonio Tarver did it; it’s a big thing for me emotionally to be able to bring world-class boxing back to Tampa Bay.”

Luis Collazo

In taking on the 34 year old Collazo (36-6, 19 KOs), Thurman is taking on a once competitive and versatile champion, who now appears past his best days. However, Luis wants to show that he still has more to offer the fight game:

“I’m the type of guy who doesn’t like to plan ahead. I’m the underdog and I love being the underdog. I’ve been the underdog all my life. It inspires me to go out there and show the fans that anything is possible not just in the ring, but in life.”

The last time Collazo was in the ring with a top ten welterweight, he struggled mightily in losing a unanimous decision to Amir Khan. Collazo would need to accomplish the “upset of the year” thus far, in order to emerge victorious on Saturday night. Besides having youth and the “A-side” hometown officials on his side, Thurman also has very good hand-speed and two-fisted power.

It is possible that Thurman could be distracted and overwhelmed about carrying the burden of defending his title at home. We recently saw heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder give an underwhelming performance in front of his home town crowd in Birmingham, Alabama, against a C-level (at best) opponent. Thurman, however, carries a very relaxed and mature disposition, to go along with his immense talent.

Keith Thurman

It won’t be an easy night for Thurman. Depending on how you feel about the violent enigma that is Diego Chaves, and considering that Robert Guerrero—currently scouting out properties for a relocation to Shotsville– looks to have had the rest of his prime beaten out of him during his Mayweather bout, Luis Collazo may arguably be the best welterweight that Thurman has ever faced.  This fact says more about how Haymon is seemingly protecting and preserving Thurman, than any type of lack of confidence on Thurman’s part.  The young man wants big fights, but they just are not being offered to him. Still, “One Time” will keep taking advantage of these prime-time PBC showcases, until a major opponent comes along.

On Saturday night, Collazo won’t be overwhelmed by the moment, and at the very least, he wants to show a good account of himself in order to secure future big paydays in Haymon’s vast 147 pound stable. I expect to see Thurman box cautiously for the first two or three rounds. Thurman respects the psychology of the fight game, and he won’t look to make any early mistakes while he reads the rhythm and energy of his opponent.  Eventually, I think we will see several exciting exchanges, and Collazo may win a round or two with well-timed shots and hustle. I think Collazo will test Thurman’s chin and heart early in the second half of the fight.  However, eventually I trust Thurman’s overall superior skill level overwhelms Collazo for a TKO victory sometime before the final bell rings.

The undercard for the night is topped off with an intriguing co-feature which will open the ESPN telecast. 24 year old junior middleweight, Tony Harrison (21-0, 18 KOs) a mentee of the late great Emanuel Steward out of Detroit, will face his stiffest test against Willie Nelson (23-2-1, 13 KOs). The 6’3” Nelson, 28, is expected to take the fight to Harrison, which will surely produce fireworks. As Harrison recently told ESPN in a promotional interview for the fight:

“So win, lose or draw, the goal for me is giving the fans what they pay for. At some point we know Willie Nelson is going to go into that mode and at that point the fans are going to see one amazing fight.”

It’s smart matchmaking on the part of the PBC to open the broadcast with a surefire shootout, while also giving Harrison an opportunity to cement his status as the next great fighter out of the boxing-world famous Kronk Gym. The winner of this fight will likely be Harrison via a hard-hitting decision with accurate punches.  Whomever wins will be looking to soon establish himself as the alpha male in a division currently lacking in star power, but with a strong mix of young rising talent and late prime veterans.

The rest of the undercard won’t be televised, and includes names like Edner Cherry (33-6-2, 18 KOs) fighting Luis Cruz (21-3, 16 KOs) in a 10-round lightweight battle and Anthony Peterson (34-1, 22 KOs) facing Ramesis Gil (8-11-5, 5 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout. Antonio Tarver Jr. (2-0, 2 KOs), the son of the local legend, will also appear on the card in a 4-round super welterweight fight. Those are just a few names from the stacked undercard, with the opening bell expected at approximately 6:30 p.m. ET.

This is a big night for boxing and an exciting new path for the ESPN network. Whether you are at home, or out at sports bar, make sure to tune in for an exciting night of fights on basic cable television.

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