By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the USF Sundome in Tampa, Florida will be the host site for the first Premier Boxing Champions card on ESPN. Highly regarded welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman will be defending his WBA title against Luis Collazo in the main event of the night and Detroit native Tony Harrison will face the veteran Willie Nelson in a junior middleweight contest.
Several good boxers will appear on the untelevised undercard and may be shown on television if time permits. These notable fights include lightweight contender Edner Cherry facing off against Luiz Cruz, Antonio Tarver Jr. will be competing in the junior middleweight division, and Lamont Peterson’s brother, Anthony Peterson, will also be competing in the junior welterweight division.
The following is a preview of both of the planned televised bouts.
Tony Harrison (21-0) vs. Willie Nelson (23-2-1); Junior Middleweights
Tony Harrison is a prospect that many in the boxing industry are keeping a close eye on. He was trained by the late great Emmanuel Steward and he proudly considers himself a part of the famed “Kronk” gym.
His opponent, Willie Nelson, was also once considered a prized prospect by many, but he has lost some of his shine since losing to Vanes Martirosyan in his last professional fight in October of 2014.
Harrison is twenty four years old and is four years the junior of Nelson. Nelson, however, will have a two inch height advantage as well as a reach advantage, but will not necessarily have an advantage in speed or power. Harrison has stopped an eye opening eighteen opponents and he is currently riding a ten fight knockout streak. Nelson has only stopped thirteen of his opponents, and only two of his past five victories have come by way of knockout.
Neither Harrison or Nelson have achieved a high level of success as an amateur on the international stage.
At this point in their careers Nelson has faced the tougher competition. Nelson did lose a unanimous decision to Vanes Martirosyan in his last bout, but he has several impressive victories on his resume. He has defeated the likes of Luis Grajeda, Luciano Cuello, Michael Medina, John Jackson, and Cuban amateur standout Yudel Jhonson.
Harrison hasn’t faced someone with the talent of Nelson, but he has defeated a few well known veterans. He has defeated the likes of Antwone Smith, Bronco McKart, and Grady Brewer.
This will be a good opening bout and the longer it goes the better the chances are of Nelson winning the bout. But Nelson didn’t look very good in his last bout and Harrison appears to be on the rise. Harrison should win by stoppage if he can solve the reach and height of Nelson early, but if Nelson’s jab is on point it will be a long night for Harrison.
Keith Thurman (25-0) vs. Luis Collazo (36-6); WBA Welterweight Title
Many people feel that Keith Thurman will be the one to take over the welterweight throne when Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. decide to retire. Many also believe that Thurman has the best chance at being the first person to actually defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr.
But first, Thurman has to get past the rugged veteran Luis Collazo, a man that has bounced back from several defeats to continue to compete with the best.
Collazo is thirty four years old is no longer at his physical prime. Thurman is eight years Collazo’s junior and has the edge in power and speed over his opponent. Collazo will have about a three inch reach advantage and about an inch and half height advantage over Thurman.
However, Thurman holds a significant edge in power. Collazo has only stopped nineteen of his opponents, but three of his past five victories have come by way of stoppage. Thurman has stopped twenty one of his opponents, and he has also stopped three of his past five opponents.
Thurman is a former Police Athletic League Champion as an amateur and Collazo had over one hundred and twenty fights as an amateur.
Thurman has slowly and steadily increased the level of competition that he has faced in his career. His notable victories include Carlos Quintana, Jan Zaveck, Diego Chaves, Jesus Soto Karass, Julio Diaz, Leonard Bundu, and most recently Robert Guerrero. He has passed every test presented to him thus far in his career, but it should be noted that he does not seem able to stop high level opponents with the same type of regularity that he did early on in his career.
Collazo has faced a large number of quality competition in his career and has had mixed results against them. His notable victories include Victor Ortiz, Steve Upsher Chambers, Miguel Gonzalez, and Alan Sanchez. His losses were to Amir Khan last year, Freddy Hernandez in 2011, Andre Berto, Shane Mosley, and Ricky Hatton.
Collazo revived his career with a second round knockout of Victor Ortiz in January of 2014, but he followed that up with a twelve round unanimous decision loss to Amir Khan in which he was never truly close to winning.
He has the ability to make it a closer than expected fight and can stop Thurman if Thurman gets careless, but Collazo is usually brought in as the B side for a fight with little expectation of winning. Saturday is no different.
Thurman should win on Saturday, but if he wants a fight with Mayweather he needs to do it impressively.
Press Conf Quotes:
“There’s a lot to talk about with this fight. The fact that it’s on ESPN, people are going to tune-in and I’ll have the opportunity to make more fans and broaden my fan base. It’s another audition for a national audience.
“Depending on how you do, your stock goes up. An impressive win though, that gets you a real jump. I’ve worked hard to get here and I want to be spectacular.
“I believe the excitement will come for myself when I enter the arena and I hear the cheers of the hometown crowd. I’ve gotten a lot of love and respect from different venues I’ve fought at, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been back home.
“There are a lot of people who have followed my career that haven’t been able to see me, live in action. The fact that I’m bringing this fight home, I just think about when Winky Wright did it; Jeff Lacy did it; Antonio Tarver did it; it’s a big thing for me emotionally to be able to bring world-class boxing back to Tampa Bay.
“I’m looking forward to a great performance and hopefully we can continuously bring these big fights back to Tampa Bay.”
“My preparation was for 15 rounds so we’re ready to go the distance. I’m here for the long haul.
“I’m trying to pull off the upset again. Anything can happen in this sport, one punch can end everything, so we’ll see what happens on Saturday.
“With the Khan fight I showed myself how much passion I still have for the sport. This fight here, everyone is going to see the old Luis Collazo again.
“I’m the type of guy who doesn’t like to plan ahead. I’m the underdog and I love being the underdog. I’ve been the underdog all my life. It inspires me to go out there and show the fans that anything is possible not just in the ring, but in life.
“I’m going to give it my all, that’s the type of person I am. I didn’t come here for handout so I hope he’s prepared.”