BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
TAMPA — In a welterweight title fight in Tampa’s USF Sun Dome July 11, Clearwater’s Keith “One Time” Thurman showed why he is not only the champ but one of boxing’s premier rising stars by defeating challenger Luis Collazo handily in front of the hometown crowd and a national TV audience. Premier Boxing Productions presented the bout, which aired live on ESPN.
A massive favorite and WBA world champion, Thurman improved his spotless record to 26-0 (22 KOs) by out boxing the tentative Collazo (36-7, 19 KOs) to win the fight one second into the eighth round on a TKO. Due to profuse bleeding over his right eye that affected his sight, Collazo could not continue.
Through the early rounds the 26-year-old Thurman stalked Collazo, coming after him and landing well-timed single body shots. Collazo seemed content to flick jabs to keep Thurman at a distance, but the champ found a way to swoop in and out, tagging Collazo with power punches on the move. In the second round, Thurman unleashed a combination that had the 34-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y. native protecting himself. The champ doubled up on jabs to set up a big right hand to the chin of Collazo.
The third round found Thurman content to let Collazo come to him, and though Collazo was more aggressive, he wound up walking into more fierce combinations as Thurman was determined to work the mid-section. Into the fourth Thurman perfected his rhythm, sidestepping Collazo’s advances and countering by picking his spots on Collazo’s body to target with sweeping and effective punches.
In the fifth, Thurman teed off on Collazo from the outset, throwing powerful uppercuts and regaining the control and pace of the fight. Though Collazo seemed to be tiring near the end of the round he managed to penetrate the champ’s defense and dig an explosive left hand to Thurman’s body. Though it looked for a moment that a massive upset was brewing, Collazo could not close the deal and Thurman, even though he was clearly hurt, hung on to ride out the round.
Thurman came back in the next round a bit more guarded but managed to find his form again. He let fly with some more power punches to the body and head of Collazo, and a swelling above the challenger’s eye began to bleed. The seventh round had Thurman back at full strength, seemingly, as he snapped off sharp right hands to Collazo’s face. Thurman picked up some pep later in the round and opened things up by throwing a few haymakers, prompting the capacity crowd to chant, “Keith! Keith! Keith!”
By round’s end, Collazo’s bleeding—apparently caused by an accidental clash of heads earlier in the fight—had become extremely profuse. Insisting he could not see, Collazo chose to quit and at one second into the eighth round Thurman was awarded a TKO decision to retain his welterweight belt. It was Thurman’s second successful title defense.
“It was a great fight,” Thurman said after the bout, thanking the enthusiastic crowd on hand for its support. “Luis Collazo, I want to give it up to him, all respect, he’s a great veteran. He came and he fought hard and caught me with a great body shot but I took it, I endured it like a champion does and didn’t go down.”
To the rumblings about a possible matchup between Thurman, being billed as boxing’s next big thing, and legendary undefeated fighter Floyd Mayweather, Thurman put it bluntly: “I’m a young, strong champion, Floyd, come and get it! I’m undefeated like you, baby! I’m ready!”
On the undercard Willie Nelson of Cleveland took down previously undefeated Tony Harrison of Detroit with a surprise KO at 2:57 of the ninth round of their middleweight clash. It was a relatively uneventful fight—so much so that the Sun Dome crowd booed the sluggish action—with Harrison in the driver’s seat for most of the bout. Harrison (21-1, 18 KOs) traded with the 28 year-old Nelson (24-2-1, 14 KOs), doling out most of the punches but keeping a measured distance and refusing to commit inside. Firing off his shots from the perimeter, the shorter Harrison moved around his opponent and seemed to be winning the bout when in the ninth Nelson saw his chance and pounced on it. With Harrison backing up toward the ropes, Nelson unleashed a destructive right hand that caught his opponent flush, flooring Harrison instantly. The 24-year-old Harrison dropped straight back, stunned and senseless, prompting the referee to wave off the fight.
In other undercard action lightweight Edner Cherry (34-6-2, 19 KOs) stopped Luis Cruz (21-4, 16 KOs) with a ninth round KO and super welterweight Carlos Garcia (8-14-1) defeated St. Pete’s Manny Woods (13-4) in a majority decision. Antonio Tarver, Jr. (3-0) — son of notable Tampa fighter and former champ Antonio Tarver — scored a unanimous decision over Oscar Gonzalez (9-12-1).