Luis Collazo will tell you that his fight against Victor Ortiz before a hometown crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday night is coming at precisely the perfect time.
There have been other fights that looked like career-defining, life-altering matches for Collazo before they occurred only to end in bitter disappointment afterwards. Collazo has traveled so many one way streets with dead ends in his boxing career you wonder how he managed to continue the journey.
Collazo (34-5, 17 knockouts) lost in welterweight title matches to Ricky Hatton in 2006 and Andre Berto in 2009. They were controversial losses, because in both Collazo appears to have won everywhere except the judges’ scorecards.
“The Berto fight and the Hatton fight really hurt to this day,” said Nirmal Lorick, Collazo’s longtime manager. “It could have changed the way a person lives and the way a person carries himself. Sometime you wonder if he thinks: “If I give 110 percent and they take it from me where do I go?”
Collazo, 32, is philosophical about the things that have happened over his career. It no longer bothers him like it used to. He has found comfort in his family and his new found Christian faith.
“I changed my life and because of God I’m here,” Collazo said. “Even when I had the world championship it was something missing. I feel complete now. Having some loses and dwelling on it so much you do things and the next day you say, ‘Why did I do that?’ I never found happiness. But since I turned my life over to Him this is the happiest I’ve ever been.”
He gave up his love of getting tattoos, because he believes it’s a sin. And last year he discovered that he had a 19-year-old daughter from a relationship he had when he was just 11 years old. And he has a 2-year-old granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.
“We have a really good relationship. We’re in touch often,” Collazo said of his 19-year-old daughter. “A lot of people don’t know about my personal life because I don’t want them to feel sorry for what I’ve been through. I just want them to appreciate what I do in the ring. If I can inspire you, let me inspire you.”
Collazo believes he has an inspirational performance in store for Ortiz, who is coming off a 19-month layoff. Ortiz took time off to recover from a broken jaw he sustained in his match against Josesito Lopez in 2012 and to participate on the TV show “Dancing With the Stars” and appear in the movie “The Expendables 3” with Sylvester Stallone.
When Collazo meets Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) there will be some dancing. If the right punches are landed someone may even see stars. And the loser will likely be expendable in the welterweight division.
“In a fight like this I think Luis knows that he’s capable of winning,” Lorick said. “This could be another turning point in his career. A win over Victor takes him back to where he belongs. He belongs in the mix of the top four or five guys in the welterweight division. You win this fight and you’re right back with the big boys.”
Collazo, a slick southpaw, has all the skill to be in the mix for a welterweight title. But the politics of the game have conspired against him for much of his career. He is now signed with Golden Boy Promotions, which has an abundance of junior welterweights and welterweights and holds out the possibility of some intriguing matches. But first Collazo must get past Ortiz to be taken seriously for those matches.
It is just another struggle that has marked Collazo’s life and career. Collazo’s father brought him to the Starrett City Boxing Club when he was 9 years old to try to keep him away from the bad influences of the streets in Willamsburg, Brooklyn.
“When I was growing up Williamsburg isn’t like it is today,” Collazo said. “Drugs were all over the place. There were a lot of ways to get into trouble. My Dad was trying to make sure that I was safe and not getting into trouble.”
Two of his brothers, who grew up in Puerto Rico, didn’t fare so well. One of them is serving seven years in prison on a drug conviction and the other is serving life in prison for murder.
“I wasn’t able to help them, but I may be able to help someone else. One of the reasons I always train for my fights at Starrett City where I started is so that I can be an example to the young boxers who come through here,” Collazo said. “They see that I made it, maybe it will inspire them to make it too.”
From the first day that he walked into the gym, Collazo took to boxing. He liked the discipline of the training regimen and the competition. He developed into a brilliant amateur, racking up a record of 97-7 before turning pro in 2000.
Collazo soon learned that nothing in the professional ranks would be easy, particularly when it came to fighting for world titles. He had to travel to Worchester, Mass., the hometown of champion Jose Rivera to fight for the WBA welterweight title in 2005. Collazo said it was the most hostile environment that he had ever fought. Still he managed to beat Rivera on a split decision to win the championship. A year later he was back in New England, defending the title against Ricky Hatton in Boston. Though he easily outboxed Hatton, Collazo lost a narrow and controversial decision.
That set into motion a series of disappointments in major fights – a broken hand in the early rounds of a loss to Shane Mosley, the controversial loss in a decision against Berto, in which he lost by a point (114-113) on two judges’ scorecards. It’s all behind him now.
“I’ve grown as a person and a fighter,” Collazo said. “I appreciate all of the situations I’ve been in before. I’ve analyzed it and put it into perspective and put it to work for me.”
Photo / Rich Kane – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions