Friday, January 31, 2014

Collazo Revitalizes Career With Stunning Knockout Over Ortiz

Adversity be damned.  Both Luis Collazo and Victor Ortiz have had their fair share of disappointments in their careers. In this fight both would face adversity down seeking to regain their standing in the sport of Boxing.

Collazo, the former WBA Welterweight champion has been one of the cornerstones of the division for several years, despite being highly skilled and a former world champion one might argue that Collazo might be more known as a fighter who has had decisions go against him in notable fights with both Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto. Following his loss to Berto in a fight that he lost by one point on two judges scorecards, Collazo has not been seen on the sport’s marquee stage.

Collazo however, despite the setbacks has always been a fighter who will give anyone in the Welterweight division a difficult fight. Luis Collazo is still a world-class boxer and definitely a threat to anyone who might oppose him. Since his most recent loss, a ten round unanimous decision to Freddy Hernandez in 2011, Collazo was able to build momentum winning three straight fights which would lead to his next opportunity on the marquee level of the sport. Collazo’s opponent? Victor Ortiz…

An argument should be made that one fighter that has been one of Boxing’s hottest rising stars in the last several years has been Victor Ortiz. Most will remember Ortiz’ thrilling knockdown, drag out war against Andre Berto in April of 2011. A fight that was voted fight of the year by many was Ortiz’ crowning achievement as he defeated Berto for the WBC Welterweight world title that night. Off a great fight as that fight was it was not hard to understand that Ortiz would be a front runner for a potential fight with Floyd Mayweather, the man widely considered the best fighter pound for pound in the world.

Ortiz did get his opportunity to prove that he belonged in the discussion of the sport’s pound for pound debates when he defended his world title against Mayweather later that year. A fight that will forever be remembered for it’s somewhat controversial outcome. Ortiz was penalized a point for an intentional head butt in round four. While the referee Joe Cortez appeared to have his attention diverted from the action Mayweather knocked Ortiz out with two legal punches while Ortiz seemed to be waiting for Cortez to restart the action. Cortez subsequently counted Ortiz out upon seeing him on the canvas after being knocked down.

After the somewhat controversial way that fight ended, Ortiz was then slated to face Berto in what was a highly anticipated rematch. Unfortunately for Ortiz, the rematch would not come to be as Berto would first suffer an injury causing postponement to the bout and eventually a cancellation of the fight after Berto tested positive for a banned substance during randomized testing conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). 

A replacement for Berto would be found in then Jr. Welterweight contender Josesito Lopez who agreed to move up to the Welterweight division to face Ortiz. The fight which took place in June of 2012 was a give and take battle where both fighters had their moments. The exciting fight was halted at the end of the ninth round when Ortiz had to retire from the fight after suffering a broken jaw. To many, Ortiz’ loss to Lopez was unexpected and for some would raise questions as to Ortiz’ future. Much like Collazo, Ortiz has had more than his share of obstacles.

When this fight was announced I was somewhat surprised that Victor Ortiz would come back after suffering two straight losses against such a difficult opponent in Luis Collazo. It was however, an interesting fight that would garner attention. One could make a valid argument that this fight could well have represented a make it, or break it scenario for either fighter each with something to prove.

Could Ortiz bounce back after suffering back-to-back knockout losses and after being out of action for over a year? Could Luis Collazo finally get that marquee win against a recognized star the sport and thus catapult himself back into the world title picture?

The answers to those questions could be viewed as both simple and complex. The two former world champions squared off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday night with Collazo’s WBA International Welterweight championship at stake.  

The fight began with both fighters willing to engage each other in close quarters with both being able to have periods of effectiveness and more or less match each other punch for punch. The first round was extremely close, but I felt that Collazo had a little more sting to his punches and had a slight edge in my opinion while Ortiz seemed to be tight. Although Ortiz was not tentative or sluggish and came out aggressively to start the fight, Collazo seemed to be a little more warmed up and was able to make Ortiz miss with solid defense.

The second round began much like the first round had ended with both fighters continuing to engage each other. A slight difference could be attributed to Collazo who continued to make Ortiz miss periodically and land punches effectively in combination. Even though he was still aggressive Ortiz seemed to have trouble finding his distance which smothered some of his offense and as well he seemed to have trouble finding his rhythm.

The end of the fight came when Collazo connected with a perfectly timed counter right hook after Ortiz had missed with a wide left hook that landed flush on the chin and sent Ortiz down on his knees to the canvas in the final seconds of round two. A clearly stunned Ortiz was unable to respond as Referee Benjy Esteves counted him out with just one second remaining in the round.

Following the fight I commented on Twitter that the ending of this fight took me a bit by surprise, but sometimes all it takes is one punch. One of this observer’s favorite and famous lines “Anything can happen at any given time in the sport of Boxing and that is what makes the sport so great” again holds true in regard to this fight. Why did the ending of this fight take me by surprise?

Even though anything can happen it is important to remember that Luis Collazo is after all a slick boxer who is not particularly known for his punching power having registered a career knockout percentage of 45% during his career. Of course there will be some who will likely say that Victor Ortiz was damaged goods and that Collazo’s knockout should not be viewed as a surprise or maybe even noteworthy. I respectfully disagree.

Boxing is after all the sweet science and when a world-class, highly skilled boxer like Luis Collazo brings a fight to an end by landing such a beautifully timed counter punch it deserves respect. Regardless of what one’s opinion might be as to the state of Victor Ortiz as a fighter prior to this fight, this knockout by Collazo is one that has turned heads and will stir some attention and rightfully so.

Was Victor Ortiz a beaten fighter before he got in the ring? It is hard to say what affect Ortiz’ previous three fights have had on him and to be more specific his fight with Josesito Lopez where he suffered a broken jaw. Some may speculate that although Ortiz appeared to be recovered from the injury that his ability to take a punch may have been diminished. There could be indeed speculation about Ortiz’ ability to take a punch, but prior to suffering a knockout blow he was aggressive and had taken some solid punches from Collazo that landed flush. This may be simply a case of a perfectly timed counter punch landing flush that Ortiz simply did not see coming.

As for what this could mean for the career of Victor Ortiz, it is important to remember that Victor Ortiz has engaged in several memorable fights and grueling fights as well. It goes without saying that each fight can have an effect and can take a toll on a fighter. Whether or not this happened to the twenty-seven year old Ortiz is only a question that he can answer.

For Luis Collazo, this win clearly reestablishes him as a legitimate contender. Collazo who is currently ranked third in the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) Welterweight ratings could easily find himself in position to face the winner of a potential rematch between current WBA champion Marcos Maidana and Adrien Broner, or be a potential challenger for recently crowned undefeated IBF champion Shawn Porter.

Although Collazo very boldly called out Floyd Mayweather immediately after this fight for potential fight in New York, this observer believes it could be more likely that we will see Collazo in against either Maidana, Broner, Porter, possibly either former two-division world champion Paul Malignaggi, or the undefeated Keith Thurman who are rated above Collazo in the WBA rankings.

If there is something to take away from this fight that may be inspiring is that perseverance can indeed pay off. For a fighter in Luis Collazo who has had some bad breaks in his career, he could now find himself in position to attempt to regain a world title and should he be successful, it would be a storybook ending for a fighter who has had to overcome adversity. 

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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