Berto, Collazo collide for WBC welterweight belt

By Francis Walker
Updated: January 15, 2009

Andre Berto makes his second defense of the WBC welterweight championship against Luis Collazo on Saturday. HBO will televise at 9:45 PM/ET. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Andre Berto makes his second defense of the WBC welterweight championship against Luis Collazo on Saturday. HBO will televise at 9:45 PM/ET. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

NEW YORK — WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto (23-0, 19 KOs) returns to the ring for his second title defense. The aggressive and hard-hitting, 25 year-old will battle former WBA welterweight titlist and current No. 1 contender, Luis Collazo (29-3, 14 KOs).

The bout will be the featured attraction on HBO’s critically acclaimed Boxing After Dark series on Saturday night, at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Ms. beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET.

Berto has proven to be fun to watch through the years, especially in recent fights. He had a big 2008. Berto won three fights including a sixth-round TKO of Mike Rodriguez to capture his first world title. In title defense No. 1 in November, Berto proved too strong and too fast for the slick and talented Steve Forbes.

Berto is stepping up his level of opposition once more by challenging a former world champ in Collazo, 27, Brooklyn, NY.

Berto-Collazo has all the makings of a spectacular match up,” said DiBella Entertainment President Lou DiBella. “Andre’s punch volume and non-stop pressure combined with Collazo’s poise and big-fight pedigree make this the first ‘can’t miss” fight of 2009. Let’s not forget Luis has already gone 24 competitive rounds with Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley.”

Collazo is best-known for having Ricky Hatton badly hurt in the final round of their May 2006 bout, but couldn’t finish the job. Collazo dropped a 12-round decision along with his WBA title. Collazo also lost a 12-round decision to Sugar Shane Mosley.

The loss was critical for Collazo because, Hatton went on to secure high profile fights against Jose Luis Castillo, Jose Lazcano, Paulie Malignaggi, and a mega payday against Floyd Mayweather, Jr.,

In another high profile fight, Collazo looked as if he was on another planet when he made a 36 year-old Sugar Shane look seven years younger. Since then, Mosley went to fight Miguel Cotto, Ricardo Mayorga, and has a date with world welterweight champion Antonio Margarito on January 24, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA next week.

That bout will also be broadcast live on HBO.

While Hatton and Mosley went to secure multiple million-dollar paydays while boosting their career-long fame and stardom, Collazo has been left stranded on a street corner.

He continues to search for that one stellar victory against a star that would force people to take notice. Instead, Collazo’s career in recent months has been stalled by hand injuries, promotional issues with Don King, and inactivity.

Andre Berto  is focused and ready for Luis Collazo, who should not be overlooked and underestimated. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Andre Berto is focused and ready for Luis Collazo, who should not be overlooked and underestimated. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Meanwhile, Berto has soared.

People in the boxing business know Luis Collazo, but the question is whether his name should be mentioned amongst the best in the welterweight division. A win for Collazo against one of boxing’s fastest rising stars would prompt Collazo into a position to negotiate for bigger fights for bigger paydays on either HBO or Showtime.

Collazo will use his southpaw stance to box and attempt to give Berto a difficult time finding angles to punch effectively. Berto may have a hard time landing his uppercut which has noticeably become a more reliable punch in his arsenal.

Collazo isn’t expected to win, but if Berto underestimates him then an upset would be more probable. Berto has tasted the canvas before (unexpectedly), but came back to win.

Collazo, who went down in the first round against Hatton, understands that coming off the floor doesn’t always result to an automatic come-from-behind victory.

Collazo can hit harder than what his record indicates, but has a tendency to lose his concentration, whereas, Berto is always focused. It should be a good fight with plenty of action.

“This is a great opportunity for Andre to show the world the champion that he is,” DiBella added.

Sadam Ali makes pro-debut on Berto-Collazo undercard

The U.S. amateur boxing team that competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympic was perhaps the worst team ever put together by the USA Boxing because, the entire team combined to win just one medal — a bronze.

While heavyweight bronze medal winner Deontay Wilder (1-0, 1 KOs) and teammates junior middleweight Demetrius Andrede (2-0, 2 KOs), and super middleweight Shawn Estrada (2-0, 2 KOs) have already begun their professional careers, U.S. Olympian and featherweight Sadam Ali is ready to make the transition from the amateurs to the pro ranks.

Ali will begin his professional career on the undercard of Berto’s WBC welterweight championship defense against Collazo on Saturday. Ali, a native of Brooklyn, NY, battles Ricky Thompson of Tampa, FL. in a four-round bout.

“I’m ready to do what I have to do,” said Ali. “To show the world I can be a successful pro like I was an amateur. I want to be the best I can be.”

Ali’s amateur credentials include a Junior National Championship, a PAL National Championship, a U-19 National Championship, and two New York City Golden Gloves championships. In addition to making the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, Ali is the first Arab-American fighter to represent the U.S. in the Olympics.

One of the major differences between amateur boxing and the professional ranks is that there is no headgear in the pros. That's not even an issue for Gary Russell, Jr. because, he's ready to dazzle, box, and bang his opponents. Photo Credit: USA Boxing for Showtime

One of the major differences between amateur boxing and the professional ranks is that there is no headgear in the pros. That's not even an issue for Gary Russell, Jr. because, he's ready to dazzle, box, and bang his opponents. Photo Credit: USA Boxing for Showtime

Gary Russell, Jr. makes pro debut on ShoBox

Another U.S. Olympian, the talented Gary Russell, Jr. is scheduled to make his professional debut on Showtime’s popular ShoBox: The New Generation series on Friday night at the Osage Million Dollar Elm Casino in Tulsa, OK. The telecast is scheduled to begin at 11 p.m. ET (tape-delayed on the West Coast).

Russell was the favorite to capture the bantamweight gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but passed out before the final weigh-in before his first match. Russell, who dehydrated himself in an attempt to make 119 pounds after having fought at 125 for some time, was forced to withdrawal from the Olympics to the shocking disappointment of the U.S. amateur boxing circuit.

“I’d been in Beijing for a month and everything was fine,” Russell said. “I was ready to achieve a life-long goal, something I had dedicated myself to for eight or nine years. When it all came down, when I couldn’t fight, I was so mad and blown away. Everything I worked for went down the drain in an instant.”

Russell, a two-time National Amateur Champion, is set to make his pro debut against Antonio Reyes (3-2) in a four-round featherweight bout at the division’s 126-pound limit.

Gary Russell, Jr. was disappointed that he couldn't compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a bantamweight because of dehydration. Russell hopes to make up for his shortcomings in the pro ranks as a featherweight. Photo Credit: USA Boxing for Showtime

Gary Russell, Jr. was disappointed that he couldn't compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a bantamweight because of dehydration. Russell hopes to make up for his shortcomings in the pro ranks as a featherweight. Photo Credit: USA Boxing for Showtime

Russell added: “My dream was to become an Olympian, but that is not the same as not competing. Turning pro will definitely help. I am really looking forward to fighting on SHOWTIME and appreciate the opportunity.”

“I have a lot of family, friends and fans who’ve supported and followed my career a long time. I really want to make it up to them.”

The main event will feature a pair of undefeated featherweights Leonilo Miranda (24-0, 23 KOs) of Mexico against Orlando Cruz (15-0-1, 6 KOs) of Puerto Rico in a ten-round attraction. Lightweights Marvin Quintero (14-1, 11 KOs) of Mexico challenges Nick Casal (18-3-1, 14 KOs) of Chicago in an eight-round fight.