One Time Too Many: Luis Collazo Quits On His Stool, Keith Thurman Celebrates Like He Actually Caused It

That was former ESPN Friday Night Fights stalwart Pawel Wolak’s take immediately following Luis Collazo’s surrender to Keith Thurman on the debut “Premier Boxing Champions” offering on ESPN from the USF Sundome in Tampa, Fla.

Thurman (26-0, 22 KO) started by boxing smartly, moving in and out, mixing power shots and sharp jabs. He was what we hoped to see — a powerful boxer-puncher, if not the atomic-fisted destroyer the announce team made him out to be. Collazo (36-7, 19 KO) circled and tried to counter, missing more than he hit.

As the early rounds progressed, though, Thurman began to assert himself less and less, and Collazo began to find his range. ESPN’s Teddy Atlas mentioned that Thurman had injured his left hand in training, but his right didn’t appear so thunderous either. Then, halfway through the 5th round, Collazo spiked a left hook into Thurman’s body. Thurman winced and spent the rest of the round on the defensive.

Collazo appeared impassioned. Thurman appeared concerned. The 5th through 7th rounds were not what we expected at all. Collazo stormed forward, throwing like he was the puncher (he wasn’t). Thurman backpedaled and circled. He looped right hands and the occasional left hook, but they didn’t deter Collazo. The action was close and feisty. Fans actually got a fight.

And then it was over. Between the 7th  round and the 8th, Collazo said he couldn’t see. Initially it was not clear if they were stopping the fight on the doctor’s orders or going to the cards. The cut was ruled to have been caused by a head clash in the 6th round, but it was decided that Collazo had elected not to continue. The judges’ cards had it 69-64 twice and 68-65 once. TQBR had it 67-66. Collazo was coming on and Thurman was doing absolutely nothing in rounds 5 through 7.

Collazo used the phrase, “better safe than sorry” in his post fight interview. That’s fine in most professions, but not in boxing. It certainly did not seem like the kind of thing a guy who has given Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto absolute hell and gamely stood up to Shane Mosley would say. The Hatton fight was nine years ago, and the Berto scrap was six and a half, but it didn’t feel right. The cut and lumps didn’t look worse than anything we’ve seen Collazo fight through before, but fatigue makes cowards of us all, and fatigue tends to come more quickly with age.

Thurman had nothing to celebrate. We’ve been waiting for him to step up for nearly two years, but stoppages of Jesus Soto Karass and Julio Diaz (no, the other Julio Diaz), a wide decision over Leonard Bundu, and a sharp fade in a victory against Robert Guerrero haven’t won him any new fans. He wasn’t impressive in any way.

Willie Nelson gave fans something to actually cheer nine rounds into a nearly un-watchable junior middleweight fight when he landed left and right hooks high on Tony Harrison’s head. The combination put the prized PBC prospect onto his ass in the corner and into a state of delirium from which he could not recover before referee Frank Santore, Jr. reached the count of 10.

The bout itself drew deserved boos. Neither fighter did enough to merit much consideration from fans. Harrison (21-1, 18 KO) jabbed some and clumsily attempted to counter. It was enough to win rounds, but never quite enough. Nelson (24-2-1, 14 KO) occasionally used his height to jab from a distance (he’s the Sudanese refugee’s Paul Williams, I’ll have you know), but mostly he punched too little while trying to close the distance and fight inside. In the end, it was a pair of punches that didn’t look particularly devastating that put us out of our misery and sent Harrison back to the drawing board.

As for the coverage, PBC continued its practice of undeniably useless puff pieces on its fighters. Teddy Atlas chatting with Keith Thurman while he got his cornrows done was one of the dumbest fucking things I’ve ever seen — EVER. And Thurman spoke in the third person. The segment made my brain bleed.

Also, if you missed it, Joe Tessitore really wants you to know that Thurman is tagged as “the next great one.” PBC likely kept the Friday Night Fights staff for reasons of logistics, but it also seemed like a hyper-cynical attempt to lend some semblance of journalistic integrity to the broadcast. It didn’t work. It was insulting.

Photo: Keith Thurman (L) exchanges punches with Luis Collazo. Credit: Brian Blanco/Getty Images.