Boxing got its first fight of the year candidate right out of the gate.
Undefeated and now 24-0 Andre Berto survived a wild and exciting fight against Luis Collazo with a close unanimous decision victory last Saturday night. It was so close that Berto’s final round may have won him the fight on two of the judges’ scorecards.
That twelfth round was the prototypical big bang finale that all fight fans want to see in the final round of a fight. Both fighters were spent, but left everything in the ring. Both men were throwing, but Berto’s punches still had something left on them. Collazo even dropped to the canvas while his head was in one of Berto’s arms; no knockdown was awarded. For the final minute and a half of the fight, Berto pepper and pounded Collazo with an assortment of power punches that found their target and had this viewer wondering if it would be stopped and then wondering how Collazo survived when the final round ending bell of the right rang.
The fight acted as the world’s most entertaining endurance test as the final three rounds of the fight turned into a challenge of wills more than a challenge of ability levels with both men going back and forth from being gassed out to charging at each other throwing punch after punch at his opponent. The oddity here comes in the fact that unlike other fights that have ended in this fashion the spurts were of resting and long periods were of punches being thrown, the polar opposite of what usually transpires in a fight where both are extremely tired by fight’s end.
The final minute of round nine may have best represented the energy possessed by both fighters on this night as those final sixty seconds saw both fighters working the entire time throwing and dodging punches continuously moving and continuously throwing. It was definitely the best sixty seconds of boxing I’ve seen over the past year and probably the best minute of boxing there’s been in the last eighteen months.
Collazo had started the fight rather well staggering Berto a minute into the fight and getting a 10-8 fourth round on the scorecards when he not only won the round, but Berto was deducted a point for holding.
Collazo’s late near-collapse was an interesting one as Collazo almost unanimously won four of the first five rounds including a 10-8 fourth round. But it would be in the middle rounds that Collazo began to slow landing fewer than five punches in the entire seventh round and basically gave away rounds six through eight. These rounds would be the ones that allowed Berto to get back into the fight on the cards. Collazo let his hands down and moved slower during these rounds not answering as often or as ferociously as he had even a round before. Lennox Lewis during the HBO broadcast theorized that it might be Collazo playing possum and getting a breather. This could be true because Collazo never allowed himself to get into anything he couldn’t handle during these rounds. However, there was no offensive advance from Collazo and this was the only period of the fight, including the exciting final few rounds, that Collazo didn’t control the ring and allowed Berto to assert his will and win a few easy rounds. For Collazo, in basically giving away these rounds he may have given away the fight as well.
The story of this fight resided in the power punches category as this boxing match turned into a good old-fashioned fight really quickly and didn’t let up. In fact, Collazo threw over 100 punches in one of the later rounds and ended up landing 194 power punches out of 602 thrown. Power punches may have won the fight for Berto because his ability to land them late in the fight did help fuel his comeback on the cards. Berto ended the fight landing 203 of 415 power punches thrown.
Berto also had to survive the damage Collazo was inflicting early. An accidental headbutt in round five created a cut over Berto’s right eye and by round seven there was good swelling beginning to develop over Berto’s left eye. He would survive both and neither would become a factor later in the fight.
With Berto remaining unbeaten, both fighters elevating themselves with their performances, and the almost magical transformation of the welterweight division into one of the best in boxing, both men have opportunities waiting for them. Despite Floyd Mayweather still being retired and Pacquiao fighting Hatton, there’s a lot in this division with Mosley/Margarito being the second showcase welterweight fight in as many weeks and Paul Williams. Williams, 36-1, is one of the most underrated fighters in the sports simply because he’s been ducked by so many fighters. With Margarito, Mayweather, Pacquiao, and Hatton definite no’s at the moment for Williams, Berto could be a good fight for him: a showcase fight on HBO that could give him enough credibility with a win where he couldn’t be ducked anymore. On the flip side, an undefeated Berto beating the highly touted and only one-loss Williams would do just the same for Berto with the added bonus of still having an unbeaten record, something that looks quite pretty to promoters and fighters alike.
Could Berto/Williams be HBO’s next big welterweight fight? Maybe. Should that fight happen? Maybe. However, Collazo can’t be counted out of any equation either as he has the veteran and experience status that Berto still doesn’t and—thinking of someone like Margarito—Collazo’s style is one that is more technically based so any brawler or power puncher would want to fight that fight. But because of the loss, only Berto can look to bigger things in the welterweight division as a great losing performance can help get your name out there and create a following, but wins get you the bigger fights. Berto won, so he can think about bigger fights and bigger paydays. Collazo has to go back to the drawing board, and if so should look at those ten minutes in the middle of the fight that may have lost it all.
Berto 9 10 9 8 9 10 10 10 10 9 10 10 10 114
Collazo 10 9 10 10 10 10 9 9 9 10 10 9 9 114