On Saturday, Britain’s Amir Khan faces Luis Collazo in what promises to be an exciting and competitive welterweight attraction in Las Vegas. The chief support to Floyd Mayweather’s WBC/ WBA unification clash with Marcos Maidana has divided opinion, but one former world champion is better suited than most to analyze the pending match up.
In May 2006, British superstar Ricky Hatton was one of the hottest properties in world boxing. “The Hitman” had ripped the IBF junior welterweight title (as well as THE RING’s championship recognition) from pound-for-pound entrant Kostya Tszyu, added the WBA version by knocking out Carlos Maussa and then targeted that organization’s welterweight strap.
Full of confidence, Hatton ventured to Boston to take on Collazo but his close unanimous decision win was far from a tea party.
“It was one of the hardest fights of my career,” said Hatton. “When I was fit at junior welterweight I could bulldoze opponents, but competing seven pounds north of my natural fighting weight was a real shock to the system. Only two fights earlier I made Kostya Tszyu quit on his stool and he was an animal at 140 pounds.
“Welterweight was something else entirely. I had Collazo down in the first 10 seconds and bullied him for a couple of rounds, but he took my best shots and started firing back. The punches were a lot harder and I could feel his strength, as we grappled on the inside.”
Khan, like Hatton, will be making his full welterweight debut against the tidy New Yorker, but his British predecessor was keen to point out that weight won’t be the only challenge which presents itself on fight night.
“Collazo’s southpaw stance is very tricky, he’s physically strong and punches harder than you expect,” Hatton said. “You think of him as a technical boxer, but he’s actually heavy handed and I really didn’t expect that. You don’t have to reference my fight with him – just look what he did against Victor Ortiz.
“Nobody expected Collazo to knock out Ortiz in two rounds and that shows us what he has left in the tank. Also, Luis will be an angry man because he feels aggrieved about the decisions that went against him in fights with Andre Berto and myself. I thought I won our fight, but it was extremely close.”
Despite the scenarios being identical in terms of weight and opponent, Hatton and Khan are vastly different fighters. At his best, Hatton was a durable no nonsense slugger who wore down the opposition with savage body blows and cerebral aggression. Khan, by contrast, is a lightning quick boxer who fights well on the outside and gives off good lateral movement.
The problem, as Hatton confirms, is if the 27 year old deviates from that style.
“I hope Amir fights smart and uses his skills,” said the former two-weight world champion. “I didn’t struggle to hit Collazo because he’s flat footed, which means that he doesn’t cover distance at speed – coming forward or going back. As we all know Amir has quick hands, quick feet and great boxing ability, so the only chance Collazo has is if Amir elects to have a fight.”
“Now, for his sins, that is what Amir tends to do. He was boxing the ears off Danny Garcia and Julio Diaz, but got overconfident and clocked with big punches. The irony is that we love him because he wears his heart on his sleeve, but Amir can’t afford to slip up at welterweight and must use his natural attributes.”
For months Khan (28-3, 19 knockouts) was linked to a fight with Floyd Mayweather, only for fate to intervene in the form of Marcos Maidana. The power punching Argentinian humbled Mayweather protégé, Adrien Broner, for 12 rounds in San Antonio last December and, as a result, leapfrogged Khan to secure the biggest fight of his career.
Still on the hunt for a Mayweather collision, Khan is determined to show what he is made of on the American’s dance card and, in recent weeks, has also signed with Money Team connection Al Haymon.
Hatton said, “The Mayweather fight hasn’t been confirmed for Amir, but all the signs are that it could happen in the near future. With that in mind Collazo is not the opponent I would have picked for him. There are plenty of good fighters who aren’t as dangerous as Collazo but again, that’s why we love Amir Khan – he’s not scared of taking on a challenge.
“Ultimately, I expect him to win, because surely to God he knows not to get reckless in this one. If he remains disciplined and moves for 12 rounds then he beats Luis Collazo on points.”
And what about the main event? A peak Floyd Mayweather handed Ricky Hatton his first loss in December 2007 and over six years later remains the pound for pound king. Does “The Hitman” foresee a changing of the guard?
“Look if Maidana lands properly then he probably knocks out Wladimir Klitschko,” said Hatton in a comedic tone. “Will he land on Floyd Mayweather? He doesn’t have fast feet, fast hands or great boxing ability, so I don’t think so.
“If Canelo Alvarez can’t catch Mayweather then I don’t see Maidana doing it. I see this being another master class and I doubt Floyd will be able to miss him.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing