Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Berto vs Collazo Preview

by Lee Payton

When Andre Berto takes on mandatory challenger, Luis Collazo, January 17, he will be taking a significant step up in competition. The New York based veteran southpaw has proven his worth in tussles with elite fighters like Shane Mosley and Ricky Hatton, and should provide some answers for the many questions surrounding the untested youngster.

What's At Stake

For Berto, keeping his undefeated record and momentum should be motivation enough, but there is also pressure to keep the interest of those who call the shots at HBO. They sign the big checks and have shown some interest in him at this early stage in his professional career. A slip against a lower top ten welterweight, who is solid, but mostly unheralded, would set him back considerably and raise doubts about his standing as a top fighter. I suppose I should mention that his title belt is also on the line.

For Collazo, it's a chance to make a name for himself as something more than just a stern test for the best guys out there. He's never been the favourite going into a fight with a name guy, and was only ever really an option because he once held a strap himself. His title is now gone, he hasn't had a significant fight in 2 years and a loss would just throw him back into the shuffle where there aren't too many opportunities for tough lefties to make any real money. He needs this one.

The Styles

The Floridian, Berto, is a squat, thickly-muscled fighter who does his best work on the inside with his quick hands and tight delivery. He has average power, but can deliver blazing combinations in close with some pop. That's what we know about Andre. What isn't as clear is how he handles southpaws. Especially one with the seasoning of the guy he's about to face. Will he be able to find his comfort zone against a left hander who can fight on the inside and at range? Is he mature enough to adjust on the fly if something isn't working? How will he react if he finds himself behind at some point?

Many fans of the sport have described the young man's chin as fragile based mostly on a knockdown he suffered at the hands of fringe contender, Cosme Rivera, but that shouldn't be much of an issue here, as Collazo's record isn't that of a banger. That said, I'll bet Ricky Hatton remembers the left hands he tasted. Actually, he'd probably like to forget that fight ever happened.

Collazo is tough, strong and well schooled to go with the trickery of his backward fighting stance. He's proven to be a fearless fighter who can do a little bit of everything in there, but for this fight he may just have to make up his mind. I've seen him go forward all night, like he did with Mosley. I've seen him get rough and bang, like with Hatton. I can also recall times, against lesser fighters, when he got cute in there. You never really know what you're going to get from Luis, other than an honest effort.

What To Expect

It's a tough fight to pin down, because the style match-up is a bit awkward and we don't have a ton of footage from either guy on the world class level. However, I think we can count on the more experienced man to take the fight to the upstart early on to see just how wet he is behind the ears. I don't expect Berto to back down from a fight, so we could see a real scrap on Saturday night.

I'll say that Collazo's southpaw stance, quickness and will are enough to open Berto's eyes and welcome him to a higher level of boxing. It will be Andre's own speed, energy and flash that will make this fight a virtual toss-up on the cards after 12 rounds. I'm looking forward to a pretty good fight between two real fighters. Let's hope the winner gets the "W" because he won the clash of wills and not the clash of heads.