Keith Thurman vs Luis Collazo & Tony Harrison vs Willie Nelson
BY KID HERSH
ESPN's debut of Saturday Night Boxing from Premier Boxing Champions out of Tampa, Florida. First up was Tony Harrison (21-0, 18ko's) vs Willie Nelson (23-2-1, 13ko's)). This is the big step-up fight Harrison, who is biting off a big chunk with Nelson who we all know comes to fight every single time out. Harrison was dancingin the first round and leaving his guard far too low - which Nelson was taking advantage of with snappy jabs and left hooks. Both men landed powerful shots in the first round as so far it seems pretty evenly matched, although I am curious to see if Harrison settles in a bit in the coming rounds since he looks nervous and Nelson looks nice and relaxed. In the second round Harrison did relax into more of a counter punching rhythm for the majority of it, making Nelson fight from a distance and miss frequently. He then opened up at the end of the round and exploded with powerful shots on the inside - notably left hands that looked like they were buzzing Nelson as they thudded home. In the coming rounds Harrison settled into a rhythm of letting Nelson come forward and picking his shots well. Nelson was seemingly getting lulled to sleep as he plodded forward but without much urgency. He started the fifth round fairly fast but didn't keep it up, falling back into Harrisons rhythm and pace for the fight. In the sixth round Nelson had a tiny bit more success - making me wonder if he is still warming up yet since he is a slow starter typically. By the end of the round Harrison was right back at dominating the fight though, showing that he is not going to let Nelson on top of him, which he has done a wonderful job at thus far. The rounds ensued in much the same fashion of those early to middle rounds, with the crowds booing from restlessness at times. It was in the ninth round that Nelson seemingly decided to go for broke and started not just pressing - as he has been - but had a little bit of emergency to it. He also started letting his hands go and then at the end of the round, with Nelson way far down on the cards, he hurt Harrison with a right hand to the top of the head. He followed up with a combination that ended with a right hand that sent Harrison down! Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas went nuts, as everyone at home woke up in their chairs from a slumber, as Harrison wobbly got up and turned in the corner to hold himself up on the ropes as the referee waved off the fight with only three seconds left in the round when Harrison looked like he didn't know where he was. Wow - that was a shocker!!! The change in the fight can be shown in that sixth round, although it was masked by some of these coming rounds. And go figure - Harrison had never been past eight rounds and he gets stopped in the ninth by a tough veteran that is nowhere near past it and in fact might be in his prime. Bit off more than he could chew!
Main event time after a very emotional bit where Atlas was asking Thurman about Ben Getty (who always comes up for his fights) and he was in tears drawing up memories of his former mentor and trainer. Well, after that and a commercial break to pull it together it was Keith Thurman (25-0, 21ko's) vs Luis Collazo (36-6, 19ko's). In the first round Thurman was mostly trying to adjust to Collazo's awkward southpaw style. There was little action as Collazo was just getting a feel for Thurman himself, circling the ring and offering different looks but not unloading anything until the end of the round - where he was still very cautious of Thurmans power. In the second round it was still touch and go, with Collazo looking like he is saving himself for the later rounds (he saw the Guerrero fight!) and Thurman was just doing enough to stay on top of his man while not expanding himself until with thirty seconds left in the round it looked like he buzzed Collazo with a right hand that he followed up with a left. Collazo shook it off rather quickly to end the round though. Thurman also started going to the body in the second round and carried that into the third round when Collazo suddenly turned up the heat and was coming forward, pressing Thurman back. Thurman was countering very effectively but looks a little flustered to my eyes, with his shots wilder than usual and his defense a bit leaky. Collazo was taking some hard shots but had his moments as well with counters. In the fourth round Collazo continued pressing Thurman and still, even though Thurman is winning these rounds, he looks flustered and not quite right to my eyes. Thurman came right out in the fifth round and threw a big combination that landed on Collazo as he looked to send a message of who was still in control. Collazo shook it off and continued marching forward and taking occasional big shots from Thurman who was moving moving moving. Then suddenly at the end of the round a shocking moment happened when Thurman looked possibly hurt, which is turned out he was! Collazo's body shots were paying dividends and Thurman was crumpled over after a good liver shot - prompting him to fall forward and tie up Collazo who sees blood and was coming on very strong when the round ended. Thurman tried to touch gloves to say good work but Collazo just had wide eyes and was nodding his head saying "YEEEAH!" to show Thurman he isn't going to have any niceties in there and is looking to fight. Thurman looked recouped coming out for the sixth round and started moving about the ring and picking his shots again - landing some good right hands to end the round and then some more good right hands to start the seventh round. Thurman then caught exactly the break he needed as both of Collazo's eyes were getting blood in them in the seventh round, with his right eye bleeding heavily now at this point from an accidental clash of heads that made it worse. This seemed to invigorate Thurman, as he gained confidence and let his hands go more this round. Then another shocker for the night happened when in the corner after the seventh round Collazo told the doctor that he couldn't see. The doctor asked him if he wanted to stop the fight and Collazo said again he couldn't see and then the doctor stopped the fight. Wow, never would have seen that one coming! There was some discussion among the announcers if it was going to be a technical decision because of the accidental clash of heads or if it would be a TKO. It ended up being a TKO though because Collazo did not want to continue (is my guess?).