All the hype in the coming days is sure to focus on Saturday night’s big main event between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana, but in a world of endless speculation, the co-featured bout may end up being the one with the larger impact on the boxing landscape moving forward.
It’s impossible to enter into a Mayweather fight week without the inevitable speculation about who might have next—such is the respect awarded to boxing’s undefeated kingpin that opponents are dismissed out of hand—and in this case, we might know before Floyd even steps in the ring Saturday night.
Former junior welterweight champion Amir Khan will face former welterweight champion Luis Collazo in the main support bout with the lightly regarded WBC Silver Welterweight Championship on the line. But for both men, the stakes could be substantially higher.
Khan put much of his professional life on hold in the hopes of being the man stepping through the ropes to face Mayweather this Saturday. But he lost out, and that gives him extra motivation to make a statement.
“Yes definitely. It makes me want to go out there and put in a great performance and win against Luis Collazo,” Khan told Bleacher Report.
“And make the people think, look he [Mayweather] should’ve fought him and not Maidana.”
Collazo revitalized his career this past January at his hometown Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., blowing out the comebacking Victor Ortiz in two rounds
That’s the win that got him here, and he maintains that he’s 100 percent focused on the task at hand, something he can’t say for his opponent.
“I believe he’s overlooking me. But that’s OK. My main focus is Amir Khan on May 3,” Collazo told Bleacher Report.
“If that’s what he’s doing then that’s what he’s doing. More power to him. Whatever is motivating him to go in there and give a great outing that’s what it is.”
But Khan disputes that claim.
He acknowledges that everything that’s happened to him in recent months—giving up a chance to face Devon Alexander for a welterweight title, winning the Mayweather poll but losing out on the fight—has been trying.
Still, he doesn’t feel that he’s overlooking anyone, and that the preceding several months have given him extra motivation.
“It’s been very hard. It’s been hard. We just have to put it behind me and just be focused on who I’ve got in front of me. It’s all about winning and putting on a good performance,” Khan said.
"Every fight's the biggest fight. Winning a fight like this will definitely get me to where I need to be. The big fights I need.”
Collazo is aware of all the Mayweather talk.
He understands that Khan has been linked to and has lobbied for the fight for quite some time now. And he’s also aware that the winner of this fight has a good chance of shooting to the front of the line for an opportunity at the pound-for-pound king’s now biannual lottery.
But that doesn’t matter to him right now, and nor does the fact that it’s Khan who’s gotten all the headlines and not him.
“At this point in my career it [the talk] doesn’t matter. I’m just grateful to be in this situation right now. They can keep talking about Amir Khan and Floyd Mayweather. That doesn’t matter to me,” Collazo said.
“I know on May 3 when that bell rings it’s just me and Amir. And whatever plans he has with Floyd or whatever he’s planning, he has to answer to me first.”
The 33-year-old Collazo has been in his share of big fights against big-name fighters. He’s been in there with Andre Berto, Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley, among others—he lost all three, but in the Berto and Hatton fights, you could easily make the case he deserved better—and relishes the role of spoiler.
Many counted him out before the Ortiz fight, and he responded with a stunning knockout that jump-started his career and landed him on the co-feature of a pay-per-view headlined by boxing’s undisputed top star.
Opportunities like this don’t come along often, and Collazo doesn’t plan to let it slip, especially given all he’s overcome to get here.
“To be in off the radar fights for so long, and to come out and hear over 8.000 people [at Barclays] just cheering me on, it was electric. i thought a lot of people forgot about me,” Collazo said.
“I’m humbled by all this. How people counted me out, even before the Victor Ortiz fight. But that’s okay. I’ve always been underrated, my whole career. I’ve become accustomed to it.”
“I’m in a situation that a lot of fighters wish they had. I’m gonna make the most of it.”
Khan was much less impressive in his last fight.
He was knocked down and held on for a closer-than-expected unanimous decision over veteran former champion Julio Diaz last April in Sheffield. It’s already been over a year since that fight, and he knows that he’ll need to be at the top of his game.
Collazo is a highly motivated and dangerous foe. And he’s coming to win.
Khan says he’s very much aware of that, and that the winner of the fight will be the one who wants it more.
“Who’s going to be ready? Who’s going to be stronger? Who wants to win? So let’s see. It’s all about being focused,” Khan said.
“He has a lot of heart. I think he knows that this is his time, probably one of his last chances. Also, he’s very confident coming off the fight with Ortiz. So he’s going to be ready for this fight. Confident to try and stop me and beat me. It’s all about being smart.”
This has the makings of a fight that you can genuinely say could go either way.
And both fighters are treating it as such.
For Khan, an extremely brave fighter who has sometimes allowed his bravery to cost him in the ring, this fight is all about learning from past mistakes and not allowing them to haunt him in the future.
“I think what we need to do is go back to the boxing in the gym and not get into a war again. To be smart. I’m understanding the sport of boxing a bit more,” Khan said.
“That’s what we’re going to do on fight night. We’re going to put all the work in the gym into the ring and put on a good show for the fans.”
As for the bravery angle, Khan just wants to make sure the fans know they’ll never get cheated when he’s in the ring. And this fight will be no different.
“You’re going to see everything in an Amir Khan fight. You’ll get excitement, explosiveness. I don’t leave the ring without giving everything,” he said.
Collazo has approached this fight in much the same way.
He’s mindful of the opportunity in front of him, but he plans to attack it in the same way he approaches all of his fights and do everything possible to make a big impression.
“I just gotta go in there and stick to my game plan. I’m a natural boxer. I still don’t think I’m a big puncher. I’ve increased my power, which I didn’t have when I was younger. I have to see how Amir Khan comes out. If he comes out aggressive,” Collazo said.
“It’s going to be a big night. Not just for Mayweather and Maidana, but for me and Amir Khan. I think we might steal the show.’
And they just might.
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotations were obtained firsthand from one-on-one interviews.