For a brief moment, Luis Collazo had Keith Thurman on the ropes and believed he was on the verge of being crowned a 147-pound world champion for a second time in his career.
It was 18 months ago that Collazo drilled Thurman with a left to the midsection that nearly caused the champ to take a knee in the fifth round of their title fight in Tampa, Florida.
Instead, Thurman was able to withstand the crippling shot to the liver by circling the ring for the rest of the round, and he would go on to stop Collazo in seven rounds to retain his title in their July 2015 bout.
“I needed a little more time [in Round 5] to get him to take a knee or get a [standing] eight count,” Collazo said. “But once he heard there were 10 seconds left, he ran and survived.”
It was the closest Collazo would get to victory that night. In the very next round, Thurman opened a cut over Collazo’s right eye in that limited his vision, and ultimately forced the Brooklyn, New York, native to retire on his stool after Round 7.
“I had two bad cuts on top of one another,” Collazo said. “Blood trickled into my eye and things were blurry. I couldn’t see his left hook and kept getting hit in the same spot, so my corner stopped it.”
Luis Collazo (36-7, 19 KOs) will return to the ring for the first time since that loss when he faces fellow southpaw Sammy Vasquez Jr. (21-1, 15 KOs) on Thursday in a 10-round clash of 147-pound contenders at the Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino in Tunica, Mississippi (Fox Sports 1, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Collazo, 35, originally was scheduled to face Vasquez in Birmingham, Alabama, last July, but the former champion had to pull out of the fight after tearing a calf muscle in training camp.
“When I bounced, I would feel a sharp pain," Collazo said. "I was out for three or four months, recuperating with therapy.”
Dominican Republic contender Felix Diaz, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, stepped in as the replacement for Collazo and dealt Vasquez his first career loss in a 10-round unanimous decision.
“Vazquez just suffered a loss," Collazo said. "He’ll be hungrier and more determined, thinking this is his comeback party, but it won’t be."
“ I don’t just want this fight, I need this fight. I can’t afford a loss. ” Luis Collazo, former 147-pound world champion
Collazo is seeking a comeback of his own as he attempts to move closer to another title shot. It was back in April 2005 when the 5-foot-9 southpaw became a 147-pound world champion by earning a split decision over Jose Antonio Rivera in Worchester, Massachusetts.
He successfully defended his title by stopping Miguel Angel Gonzalez in August 2005 before being dethroned by Ricky Hatton in a questionable unanimous decision after rallying from a first-round knockdown in May 2006.
Collazo has since fallen short in three subsequent title challenges, dropping unanimous decisions to Shane Mosley in a fight for an interim crown in February 2007 and then to Andre Berto in January 2009 before being stopped by Thurman.
Collazo is 7-3 in his last 10 fights, having dropped unanimous decisions to Freddy Hernandez in October 2011 and Amir Khan in May 2014 in addition to his loss to Thurman. His most significant victory since losing his world championship is a second-round knockout of former 147-pound titleholder Victor Ortiz in January 2014.
With his career seemingly now at a crossroads entering his bout against Vasquez, Collazo is desperate to get back on the winning track.
“This past year, I've become 100 percent more disciplined," Collazo said. “I don’t just want this fight, I need this fight.
“I can’t afford a loss. I’ll be that old, hungry Collazo everyone knows, and I'll get the big W.”
For a complete look at Vasquez vs Collazo, visit our fight page.