FS1 Preview: Vasquez vs Collazo, Ugas vs Ghvamichava, Karl vs Ramirez
BY KID HERSH
This week we have another PBC card (boy what a start to the year) that is featuring Sammy Vasquez vs Luis Collazo and a handful of supporting contenders and prospects.
I will traveling to Mississippi for the intriguing card and figured I better get my picks and predictions out there before I hit the road tomorrow.
First up on the televised portion will be Ryan Karl (13-0, 9KO's) vs Eddie Ramirez (15-0, 10KO's). On paper this looks like a closely contested matchup and that's exactly what I would have called it a year ago, but of late Karl has really looked more and more like a polished fighter under the tutelage of Ronnie Shields. Karl and Ramirez have fought on the same undercard in the past and it's a bit surprising that they are facing off in what I would consider to be a bit "early" for an undefeated prospect showdown but nonetheless it's of course a good matchup and PBC is holding true to it's word that their fighters are all going to square off this year. As I mentioned earlier, Karl has looked far more polished of late after having some issues in 2015 such as against Alfonso Olvera, who was only 4-1 at the time. That win has been into perspective since though, as we have seen Olvera as recently as this weekend extending another undefeated rising star in Josh Taylor. Ramirez, meanwhile, was stunned against an opponent with only one knockout on his record and barely eeked past Bilal Mahasin. He then had similar chin problems against Kevin Watts a few months ago in an odd performance where he was super aggressive and in control at times but then very lackluster and hanging back, giving minutes and rounds away at other times. Against Karl his chin is going to have to hold up and he is going to have to be very consistent while not being overly aggressive, which is why I favor Cowboy Karl in this undefeated matchup.
Next up is Yordenis Ugas (17-3, 8KO's) vs Levan Ghvamichava (17-2-1, 13KO's). This is a very intriguing matchup between a couple of underrated gym rats. Perhaps Ugas is not so underrated anymore after taking the "0's" of two top level prospects in Jamal James and Bryant Perrella in 2016, earning him the "comeback fighter of the year" by some media journalists, or "most improved" by others. I do not think "most improved" really rings true in this instance though only because Ugas has always been very gifted and talented and just been on the losing end of some close decisions. Ugas has a stellar amateur record and one could even argue that he could be 20-0 in the pro ranks if those close decisions would have swung his way. The problem that Ugas has at times is getting too comfortable in the ring and not having enough of an offense - perhaps something he has shown that he fixed in 2016. Ghvamichava, meanwhile, has the high-output style needed to overcome a technically sound fighter like Ugas. "The Wolf" (wait till you see the hair on this guy) looked very pudgy and sluggish coming up in weight for his last fight against Breidis Prescott but that was only a first impression as he broke down Prescott bit by bit in surprisingly easy fashion to take him out in the second half of the fight. It was before that fight, in March of of 2016, that The Wolf looked good early on against Sergey Lipinets only to succumb to his power punches. I must admit that even Lipinets looked surprised at the random punches he was landing in that fight. I wouldn't let the Lipinets stick in the mind too much though, because Ugas fights absolutely nothing like Sergey and also does not carry his extremely heavy hands. Ugas is a heavy favorite in this fight but I would not be surprised at all to see Ghvamichava eek out a close decision if Ugas sits back and gets too comfortable looking to counter.
The main event is featuring Sammy Vasquez (21-1, 15KO's) vs Luis Collazo (36-7, 19KO's) in a southpaw battle. As game as Collazo always is, he is coming into this fight an extremely long layoff at over 18 months. At 35 years of age one has to wonder how he will look. His last outing was against Keith Thurman actually was a very good one as he had Thurman flustered early on from extreme aggression and great body punching. He almost had Thurman down from a liver shot and the fight was very close when the unimaginable happened as Collazo told the referee multiple times that he could not see, so the fight was stopped. This really surprised me at the time because Collazo does not seem like the type, ever in his career, to let a fight that was arguably in his grasp slip away. One just never knows though because his eyes were indeed very bloody and a fighter that cannot see against a puncher like Thurman is going to take some hellacious punishment. Vasquez, on the other hand, took his first loss against Felix Diaz in his last fight. It was a highly contested matchup where Vasquez did not quite seem his usual self throughout the bout and did end up having surgery after the fight for a tumor in his pituitary gland. There was no shame in the loss but one did have to wonder just how it was that the smaller man was pushing around the typically aggressive pressure fighter. That plays into this upcoming bout as Vasquez is the favorite but not by as wide of a margin as you would think against a 35 year old opponent coming off an 18 month layoff. Should be good and I expect fireworks between these two warriors. Vasquez will be aiming to be the first man in 15 years to legitimately stop Collazo, who retired in the aforementioned Thurman fight and otherwise only has a stoppage defeat at the hands of Edwin Cassiani 15 years ago in a fight that seemed to be stopped prematurely. One would think this one goes the distance but the long layoff for Collazo combined with a hungry Sergeant Vasquez might spell the end of a long and illustrious career for Collazo.