Keith Thurman vs. Luis Collazo: Preview and Prediction for Welterweight Bout

Briggs Seekins@BriggsfighttalkFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2015

Keith Thurman vs. Luis Collazo: Preview and Prediction for Welterweight Bout

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Saturday night at the Sundome in Tampa, Florida, rising welterweight star Keith Thurman will fight in his home state for the first time in years and face a former world champion, Luis Collazo. It's tomorrow's potential vs. yesterday's experience. 

    Thurman is one of the biggest emerging stars in the always-talented welterweight division. Collazo was pretty much where Thurman was a decade ago. 

    Saturday, Collazo will make a bid to keep himself relevant at the top of the division by derailing Thurman's express train.

Tale of the Tape

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
    Per Boxrec     Keith Thurman     Luis Collazo
    Record:     25-0, 21 KOs     36-6, 19 KOs
    Height:     5'7.5"     5'9"
    Reach:     69"     72"
    Weight:     147 lbs     147 lbs
    Age:     26     34
    Stance:     Orthodox     Southpaw
    Hometown:     Clearwater, Florida     Brooklyn, New York
    Rounds:     105     245

    Luis Collazo has always fought at welterweight and will represent a full-sized 147-pound opponent for Keith Thurman, after he banged away at former featherweight Robert Guerrero in his last fight. Collazo actually has a reach and height advantage over Thurman. 

    Both fighters can punch, with a combined 40 knockouts between them. Thurman is a native of Clearwater, Florida, returning to fight in nearby Tampa.

Main Storylines

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    This is Thurman's triumphant return to his home community. Thurman has been one of the hottest welterweight contenders in America for the past two years, so expect a raucous, partisan crowd. 

    Thurman has shown explosive, fight-ending power and intelligent, tactical ability while handling a string of second-tier, gatekeeper-level fighters. I'm not thrilled to see Thurman fighting Collazo, who was a champion a decade ago, and lost a one-sided fight to Amir Khan in May of last year.  

    To me, Collazo is a larger, but more shop-worn, version of Robert Guerrero, whom Thurman beat by a near-shutout earlier this year. I'd rather see Thurman fight another rising young star, such as IBF belt holder Kell Brook or Khan himself. 

    A decade ago, Collazo was basically in the same spot Thurman finds himself in now. He was the WBA belt holder at welterweight and was viewed as a potential, big-time star.

    Like a lot of talented fighters who never quite made it to the top, Collazo has been overlooked by matchmakers, and and he's also come out on the wrong end of close decisions, especially against Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto. 

    Then again, against Shane Mosley and again against Amir Khan, Collazo simply looked like he didn't belong at the elite level. So Thurman probably won't get much credit if he beats Collazo.

    On the other hand, Collazo has always been a guy who can't be overlooked at welterweight, as he showed when he flattened Victor Ortiz in January 2014. This is a stay-busy fight for Thurman, but it might not be an easy one.

Strength

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    Keith Thurman has sudden, sit-down power in both fists. But what is truly impressive about him is his ability to remain patient and adjust his approach against an opponent. 

    Thurman fought a technically smart, dominant fight against Robert Guerrero in January, beating the Ghost in more exciting fashion than Floyd Mayweather, to bigger margins on the card.

    Luis Collazo is one of the most experienced, world-class-level fighters in the welterweight division. He is a tricky southpaw who can punch with dangerous authority.

    Collazo is at the point of his career where he still retains a large portion of his physical gifts, yet he has developed the veteran experience to dictate the tempo and terrain of a fight.

Weaknesses

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    Keith Thurman has shown very little in the way of weakness in his 25 professional fights, to the point where critics have to look for things to nitpick about him. Against Leonard Bundu and Robert Guerrero, he was unable to finish off two clearly beaten opponents who remained right in front of him for 12 rounds. 

    I don't like the way Thurman sometimes keeps his hands low, especially against a tricky veteran with a big punch, like Collazo.

    Luis Collazo is talented, but never achieved truly elite status, even in his prime years. He has shown signs of tiring later in fights, and stamina issues don't usually improve with age.

    If Collazo fatigues late against Thurman, it could cost him the fight.

Keith Thurman Will Win If...

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Keith Thurman needs to set a quick, physical pace against Collazo, while still remaining intelligent with his offense. He needs to either feint or jab his way inside of Collazo's reach in quick order and then bang away at the older fighter's body. 

    Thurman has little to gain here in terms of stature but a tremendous amount to lose. If at all possible, he wants to look very good in this fight. 

    But before that, he has to make absolutely sure he doesn't lose. So if he can make it an ugly fight and take away Collazo's space to move, he's creating a great tactical situation for himself, even if it doesn't automatically lead to a fan-friendly performance. 

    Thurman has become a star by letting his hands go, and he certainly wants to do this against Collazo. But he's got to cover up and protect himself when he's in range, because Collazo has legitimate welterweight power. 

    Moreover, Collazo is a tricky southpaw. Thurman has to make sure he stays either beyond, or inside of, the range on that left-hand punch. When Thurman's inside, he can rip away to Collazo's torso.

    Body punching might not be as flashy as head hunting, but if Thurman lands nothing but body shots in the first few rounds, I still like his chances of grinding Collazo down in the second part of the fight.

    If Thurman stays smart and chips away at Collazo in the early part of the fight, he should get the chance to open up with his hands and collect some highlight-reel footage later in the fight. 

Luis Collazo Will Win If...

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Collazo is going to need to exploit his reach and tap into his experience to upset Keith Thurman in this fight. He'll want to pump a stiff jab and move laterally, away from Thurman's right hand, while staying alert to the younger fighter's lead hook. 

    Like an aging starting pitcher in baseball, who gets every last bit of mileage he can out of his fast ball by changing speeds, Collazo is going to want to catch Thurman with his straight left, when the younger fighter isn't set. That will make a hard punch potentially stunning. 

    To do it, Collazo needs to control the tempo, by either attacking just as Thurman is attacking, or else less than a single beat afterward.

    If Collazo can catch Thurman with a big punch and stun him early, I think the older fighter should pin his ears back and go for broke, trying to force the stoppage. If Collazo has the opportunity to get the younger, stronger fighter out of the way early, he doesn't want to let it pass him by. 

Prediction

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    Like many boxing writers, I've been hyping up Keith Thurman for a few years now. I don't see him as a "perfect" fighter, but I do think he's a very well-rounded, well-schooled boxer with athletic gifts and dangerous, fight-ending power in both hands. 

    Fighters like that are rare, so when you write about the sport, it's exciting to see a potential candidate for greatness emerge. 

    I'd be happy to see Luis Collazo put a pin in all the enthusiasm that has built up around Thurman. Collazo is a good fighter who has paid his dues in the sport, and any big wins he gets are wins that true boxing fans will celebrate. 

    But expect the veteran to be physically overmatched, and ultimately out-boxed, by Thurman, who is among the top talents in the talent-heavy welterweight division. I'm picking Thurman by Round 10 TKO. 

    One of the things that is likable about Thurman is that he seems like the type of fighter who will seek out big-time fights against the best. For that reason, I think we'll get to see him against some truly interesting opponents over the next few years.

    The possibilities for Thurman in big fights are tremendous. He'd match up well against brawlers like Marcos Maidana or Ruslan Provodnikov. I'd love to see him against an older ring general, like Timothy Bradley.

    I'd most like to see Thurman against younger talent, like IBF champion Kell Brook or two-division world champion Terence Crawford. I'd settle for the undefeated former Olympian Errol Spence. 

    Over the coming years, Thurman could easily develop into a threat at 154 pounds, where a generation's worth of superfights could be waiting.

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