By Cliff Rold
If this was a Saturday night headliner, it wouldn’t feel out of place. That it’s coming on a Thursday makes it feel a little unique. On a weekend where boxing largely goes dark and the Super Bowl takes over the (US) sporting world, this is the fight that has our attention.
We need more weekday fights like this. Not to get off track but…
…boxing’s reliance on Saturday nights is one of its weaknesses. Great fights used to happen on days other than Saturday. Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Hagler: weekday fights. Boxing was more popular on the American landscape then. When there were more fights on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, it was too.
In Japan, fights happen in weekday prime time regularly even now. It’s healthy. Boxing’s audience in the US is often said to skew old. That’s not. That it skews old speaks to the fact that it plays its biggest shows to people who are home Saturday nights. UFC goes with major cards about once a month. Younger fans can do one show a month.
Boxing does important shows far more often than that. The biggest get people to stay in. On the East Coast in particular though, if you’re a single male under the age of 35, how often are you really going to stay home until 12 or 1 AM when the night life is calling?
While the fights are on, someone else is buying your date drinks.
On Thursday night, on a card likely to end EST by 11 PM, there’s still plenty of time to hit the rack and make it to work in the morning. Weekend fun on the town still awaits.
Other major sports don’t demand as much of their fans Saturday nights as boxing does. They are healthy because of it.
Victor Ortiz-Luis Collazo is a hell of a way to spend a Thursday.
Let’s go the report cards.
Previous Titles: WBC Welterweight (2011)
Weight: 146.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 144.5 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California
Record: 29-4-2, 22 KO, 3 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1, 1 KOBY (1-2, 2 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Alfred Kotey UD8; Carlos Maussa KO1; Marcos Maidana TKO by 6; Nate Campbell UD10; Vivian Harris KO3; Lamont Peterson D10; Andre Berto UD12; Floyd Mayweather KO by 4)
Previous Titles: WBA Welterweight (2005-06, 1 Defense)
Weight: 146.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 138.3 lbs.
Hails from: Queens, New York
Record: 34-5, 17 KO, 1 KOBY
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-2, 1 KO (2-3, 1 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Jose Antonio Rivera SD12; Miguel Angel Gonzalez TKO8; Ricky Hatton L12; Shane Mosley L12; Andre Berto L12
Pre-Fight: Speed – Ortiz B+; Collazo B
Pre-Fight: Power – Ortiz B+; Collazo B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Ortiz C; Collazo B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Ortiz B; Collazo B+
Collazo comes in off three straight wins while Ortiz enters off consecutive losses and a long layoff. While Ortiz has been in with the tougher fare in recent years, if there is going to be any rust on display it will be on his side.
In a match of southpaws, that could favor the smoother boxer in Collazo. Neither man has ever lost to another southpaw but there’s a first time for everything. Both men have been stopped but for Collazo it was much longer ago (well over a decade and early in his career).
In terms of intangibles, Collazo would also appear the man to favor. He’s been a tough luck guy. He showed up big in losses to Hatton and Berto and left the ring with many feeling he’d been robbed. Collazo has a good jab, can handle himself in exchanges, and knows this could be his last big chance.
Ortiz is a guy with all the physical talent in the world but one who sometimes shrinks from the moment. In what was supposed to be a coming out party, he was busted up by Maidana. Against Mayweather, he melted down. In the Lopez loss, he let himself be drawn into a war with the shadow of a megafight with Canelo Alvarez looming over him.
The one exception was his war with Berto. After the Maidana fight, and a draw against Peterson where he let a two knockdown advantage get away, there were doubts lingering about Ortiz. He knew he needed to win, and he also knew expectations of him were lowered. It fueled the best, gutsiest performance of his professional life.
On Thursday, there are eyes on Ortiz to see where he is but some of the pressure of expectation is off. That may help him relax and make him more dangerous. A fighter who always seems a bundle of nerves, Ortiz remains a fighter with a rare combination of speed and power.
He can drop anyone. He can get to the target. While Collazo wins by being steady and professional, Ortiz wins by having the sort of tools that can erase two minutes of great boxing with a single outburst to steal a round.
Ortiz also enters rested. He’s had a chance to heal from the broken jaw in the Lopez fight and a chance to really think about whether this is what he wants. We find out now if it is. “Dancing with the Stars” and other outside distractions can be a powerful lure. Boxing demands full attention. If it doesn’t have Ortiz’s, it could be a long night.
This is a tough fight to pick on paper and the stakes are high. While both men are currently outside the upper tier of the Welterweight division, the winner is going to emerge as a real part of future title pictures. It feels like Collazo is old but he's not. He's only 32. He's tough, he's cagey...but he's always struggled with speed and he's not been a big puncher. Ortiz, for the flaws he has, has speed and explosiveness. If he still wants to be a fighter, and one would assume he does, this is a back against the wall moment akin to the Berto fight. It says here he brings the game he had that night and wins a decision with some tough moments.
Report Card Picks 2014: 5-1
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]