By Sean Crose
You read that correctly. When Queens, New York welterweight Luis Collazo steps into the ring at the MGM Grand in two weeks, he’ll be facing more than just top caliber opponent Amir Khan, he’ll be fighting to raise awareness for a cause near and dear to him.
Most people haven’t heard of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, but FSGS, as it’s known, causes incredible kidney damage to its victims, damage which is not easily repaired. “A kidney transplant is not the answer,” says Henry Brehm, CEO of the NephCure Foundation. “The disease comes back in forty to fifty percent of the cases.”
NephCure, a charitable organization dedicated to battling FSGS, (“Our mission is to find the cause and cure of FSGS Nephrotic Syndrome,” Brehm claims), is happy to get all the well known spokesmen it can. Former NBA great Alonzo Mourning, who suffers from FSGS, is a representative for the organization, but help from other quarters is welcome, too.
The disease “is very costly,” says Brehm. Indeed, treatment for FSGS rates as “the highest cost in the Medicare program.” Figures like Collazo, who reside in the public eye, are therefore invaluable when it comes to getting the message out. “The patient’s families appreciate when somebody steps up and goes public for what is an internal (disease),” Brehm explains. “When someone has a kidney disease, you don’t know they have a kidney disease.”
Collazo’s initiation into the troubling world of FSGS came from the most unlikely of places. For it just so happened that he trained at the same gym that Allie Genatt, a teenager with FSGS, was working out at. The young lady clearly had an impact on the professional pugilist, for he wore the NephCure logo on his trunks when he stunned the boxing world by knocking out Victor Ortiz last January at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Twitter was ablaze with comments. A professional fighter – a professional fighter! – was openly battling for awareness of a terrible disease and for the organization bent on destroying it. Brehm and others were quite grateful, for an action like Collazo’s “makes people feel like they’re not in this alone.” NephCure can expect even more help from Collazo in two weeks, however, for he’ll be wearing the NephCure logo again when he battles Khan on May 3d.
Truth be told, Collazo may need a little help of his own when he enters the ring in Vegas. The lightning fast Khan had been hoping to fight Floyd Mayweather in the main event that night. Instead, he’s on the undercard…and he’s looking to impress. Still, it would be foolish to write Collazo off. When he battled Ortiz in January, for instance, it was supposed to be Ortiz’ night. Yet it may well have ended up being Ortiz’ Waterloo.
Needless to say, a victory over Khan would put Collazo in serious running to face boxing’s star attraction, Mr. Floyd Mayweather himself. One can only imagine what kind of attention that would bring NephCure’s way. Brehm, however, seems happy with whatever Collazo can do to help the cause. “FSGS is five times more prevalent in the Hispanic and African American community,” he informs me. And what Collazo does “helps tremendously, frankly.”
Let’s face it, boxing isn’t known as the most humanitarian of endeavors. It’s a rough, tough, sometimes brutal occupation. Yet those who practice the sweet science can be some of the more generous individuals one’s apt to come across. Vitali Klitschko gave up the heavyweight title to help his native Ukraine, after all. What’s more, Gleason’s Gym has opened its doors to the fight against Parkinson’s disease. And now Luis Collazo will continue that tradition of generosity come May 3d in Vegas. His arm may not end up being raised in victory that night, but he’ll have assured that awareness has been raised for a very good cause indeed.