By Christopher P. Cook at ringside
Tampa, FL – Headlining the inaugural Premier Boxing Champions event on ESPN, Keith “One Time” Thurman successfully defended his WBA Welterweight belt against former titlist Luis Collazo. The event, promoted by Warriors Boxing, put the son of Clearwater in front of his hometown fans for the first time since September of 2009, and Thurman pleased the crow, retaining his title in an entertaining bout. In the co-main event, Light Middleweight Tony Harrison saw his unblemished record disappear, as Willie Nelson took care of business, stopping Harrison in the later rounds.
In front of a boisterous crowd at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Florida, “One Time” Thurman (26-0-0, 22 KOs), 146.2 lbs., dominated Luis Collazo (36-7-0, 19 KOs), 147 lbs, for much of the fight. The first started slow, as both fighters spent most of the round feeling each other out. Collazo missed wide with a pair of early punches, as Thurman kept his distance. Thurman was showered with cheers with each punch he threw – regardless if it landed or not. He took the first round, testing Collazo with his strength and avoiding most of the veteran’s punches. Thurman stepped up his output in the second, cutting off the ring at every opportunity. Collazo played the role of counter-puncher, attempting to avoid the heavy hands of the Clearwater native. Thurman snuck in a clean short counter right to the head near the end of the round.
Thurman’s poise and speed went on full display in the third, as he consistently beat Collazo to the punch. Collazo stalked the champ in the third and fourth rounds, applying constant pressure. Thurman unloaded at the start of the fifth, landing a crushing right hand to the body. Thurman caught an aggressive Collazo with a clean straight right to the face after the challenger tried to work his way inside. Thurman switched tactics in the middle of the round, easing up his output while he slipped away from shots. This change in strategy came at a high cost, as Collazo caught Thurman against the ropes and landed the best punch of the bout, a clubbing left to the ribs of Thurman. Collazo seized the momentum, relentlessly attacking the wounded body of the champ in a feverish attempt to score a stoppage. Thurman held on to survive the round, staving off the assault mounted by the game challenger.
Thurman turned much more conservative in his style in the sixth, still showing the effects of the last round. Collazo continued to come forward, working his punches in effectively. Thurman gained a second wind in the seventh after recovering from earlier body shot and landing the cleaner shots, including a blow that opened a nasty cut over Collazo’s right eye. The fight ended abruptly as the bell rang for the next frame after Collazo said he was unable to see when his corner asked if he wanted the fight stopped; official time 0:01 of the eighth round. Scores at the time of stoppage were 68-65, and 69-64 twice in favor of Keith Thurman.
A lively Thurman took to the microphone afterwards, giving Collazo some praise and thanking the local audience for their support. “He caught me with a left hook uppercut hybrid shot in the fifth and knocked out almost all of my wind. It was an excellent shot by Luis. I endured like a champion though.” “This is great me to pull this off at home. There was lots of pressure and hype. I gave it my best and I came out with the win…Thank you so much to Tampa Bay, St. Pete and all my home fans here in Florida. I’m going to continue to do you all proud.”
Thurman also took the opportunity to call out for Floyd Mayweather: “I’m a young, strong champion, Floyd. Come get it,” Thurman said. “I’m undefeated like you, baby. Come take my 0 baby! Come take my 0! I’m ready. I’m ready.”
Collazo explained his reason for not continuing the action afterward, stating “The second cut on the top of my right eye was the worst. I couldn’t really see and was constantly wiping the blood away… I want to fight again so we decided not to continue.” “If I would have come out of my corner again I probably would have gotten caught with some unnecessary shots, and I didn’t need that.”
CompuBox numbers for the fight were decidedly in favor of the champ, with Thurman connecting 119 times (348 thrown, 34%) versus 76 (244 thrown, 31%) for the challenger.
In the co-main event of the night, Tony “Superman” Harrison (21-1-0, 18 KOs), 153.8 lbs., tasted defeat for the first time when he met Willie “the Great” Nelson (24-2-1, 14 KOs), 154.6 lbs. The fighters participated in a heated exchange of words at the final press conference on Thursday, the bad blood immediately on display as the boxers went at it in the opening stanza. Nelson started the first with a strong overhand right. Harrison remained poised, landing several times to the body. Trading ensued in the second, with both boxers connecting, though neither landed a truly telling blow. Harrison started to take control of the bout in the third, successfully countering the taller Nelson.
Action slowed in the sixth with Nelson appearing to tire, his accuracy dropped in the round. Harrison continued to land solid but increasingly infrequent blows. The ensuing rounds were much of the same; both boxers willingly traded, with neither capable of making an impression. In the ninth, the fighters decided to move inside, and brawl in close quarters. An accumulation of blows took a toll on Harrison as Nelson connected with a right uppercut, left hook, followed by a sweeping right hook. Harrison, who had promised to be the first to knockout Nelson, tasted the cruel hand of fate as it was he who experienced the first knockout of his career. Time of stoppage was 2:57 of the ninth round. Nelson spoke at length at the press conference on Thursday on how he will silence the doubters once again and prove he should not be looked at as the underdog, and he did not disappoint.
Nelson spoke after the fight, “I was confident and relaxed tonight. I wanted to take him into deep waters and that’s exactly what I did.” “Keep watching me. I’m always the underdog and I embrace it. I took some big punches tonight from Tony (Harrison) and proved my chin.” Harrison’s comments after the fight showed the effects of the knockout, as his recollection differed greatly from the actual events. “When I went down it was because he hit me behind my head and then when I got up I was looking at my team.” The punch that put Harrison down landed squarely on his left cheek. “I lost to a fighter that I shouldn’t have lost to tonight. I was supposed to do better. All props to Willie though…All fighters get hit and I’ll be back stronger than ever to get my career back on track.”
Longtime local staple Edner “Cherry Bomb” Cherry (34-6-2, 19 KOs), 132 lbs., of Wauchula, Florida, looked to make a successful return to the Tampa Bay area against Luis Cruz (21-4-0, 16 KOs), 132.8 lbs. Cherry dictated the early action, scoring cleanly in the second with several lefts and rights. Edner’s strength advantage was evident in the third as he backed Cruz up on numerous occasions. Cruz landed a late blow in the third after the referee called for a break. Cherry took a knee afterword as the bell for the round rang. Unaffected by the late shot, Cherry came out in the fourth and landed a beautiful left hook to the head of Cruz. Two successive left hooks landed flush against Cruz to start the fifth, causing Cruz to back away quickly from the action. Cruz’s lack of head movement continued to be an issue, with Cherry landing a solid right hook right behind his guard.
The pace slowed in the sixth round, both fighters trading blows but at a decreased rate. The middle of the seventh turned the tide a bit for Cruz, as he landed several hard shots on Cherry. Each fighters hit the canvas hard in the eighth, Cruz’s head colliding with the jaw of Cherry after getting tangled up. Cherry was given time to recover and action resumed. Cruz took to the offensive; sensing Cherry might be wounded prey. “Cherry Bomb” quickly defused that notion, landing a flush straight right hand square to the cheek of Cruz, dropping him in the ninth. Cruz rose from the knockdown, but was unable to withstand the upcoming onslaught. Cherry caught him with crushing right hook, flooring him again to end the bout at the 2:13 mark of round nine. Scores at the time of stoppage 85-84 and 87-82 twice for Edner Cherry.
Anthony Peterson (35-1-0, 23 KOs), 138 lbs., faced Ramesis Gil (8-12-5, 5 KOs), 137.4 lbs., in a ten round super lightweight bout. The more experienced Peterson took the opening round. Gil bounced back in the second, effectively working the left uppercut several times. Only the ropes saved Gil in the fourth, with a straight right by Peterson nearly knocked him out of the ring in the fourth. Gil shook off the knockdown with ease. Peterson took to the body in the sixth round, landing a hard right – left combo square to the midsection of Gil, forcing him to collapse to his knees. The referee waived off the bout after that exchange at the 2:15 mark of the round, giving Peterson a TKO victory.
Walter Castillo (26-3-0, 19 KOs), 143.6 lbs., scored a stoppage victory over Amet Diaz (32-12-0, 23 KOs), 143.8 lbs, in a competitive super lightweight match. Castillo outworked Diaz over the opening rounds. Both fighters were throwing all they could at each other, ignoring the bell in both the first and second round, with their punches carrying over until the referee forcefully put himself between the fighters. In the third round, Castillo cornered Diaz against the ropes of the neutral corner and unleashed several flurries of damaging combinations. Diaz was able to withstand the corner onslaught, but was unable to stem Castillo’s aggressiveness. Castillo overwhelmed Diaz once again, catching him in his own corner shortly after, and the accumulation of blows dropped Diaz at the 2:45 mark of the third. Diaz was unable to continue, giving a KO win for Castillo.
Antonio Tarver Jr. (3-0-0, 2 KOs), 155.2 lbs., son of former world champion Antonio Tarver, bested last minute replacement Oscar Gonzalez (9-12-1, 3 KOs), 153 lbs. Gonzalez took the bout with less than 24 hours’ notice as Tarver’s original opponent Julian Valerio dropped out. Gonzalez, to his credit, looked prepared and in shape but could not match Tarver’s speed and productivity. Tarver controlled the pace of the opening stanza. He took to the body in the second, scoring heavy blows to Gonzalez’s midsection. As the round continued, Oscar seemed winded, which only encouraged Tarver to keep unloading. Tarver appeared to score a knockdown, with Gonzalez dropping to a knee early in the third, but the referee did not score it. Gonzalez was able to rise and make the round interesting as he stormed back with shots of his own. Unfazed, Tarver turned the tide yet again by the end of the round, exciting the growing crowd. Tarver forced Oscar back early in the final round, and let his hands go, trying to stop continue his knockout streak. Tarver just nearly achieved that goal, as he had Gonzalez reeling into the ropes, which kept him upright as the final bell rang. Gonzalez fought valiantly, but never landed consistently to keep Tarver at bay. In the end, all three judges scored the bout 40-36 for Antonio Tarver Jr.
Undefeated Gary Russell (3-0-0, 2 KOs), 117.8 lbs., battled Jaxel Marrero (1-6-1, 0 KOs), 119 lbs., in a four round bantamweight contest. Russell, brother of WBC Featherweight world champion Gary Russell Jr., looked crisp in the fight, utilizing a speed advantage to best Marrero. A game Marrero, who fought better than his record indicated, withstood Russell’s best, and kept returning shots. The final round witnessed the best action, highlighted by a nonstop exchange for the final minute. All three judges saw the bout 40-36 for Gary Russell.
Undefeated Polish boxer Patryk Szyymanski (14-0-0, 9 KOs), 155.6 lbs., made short work of Maurice Louishomme (8-3-0, 4 KOs), 154.6 lbs., dismantling him in the first. Szymmanki dropped the overmatched Loiushomme with a powerful straight right hand, causing the referee to waive off the fight at the 1:45 mark and spare Louishomme further punishment.
In the opening bout of the night, St. Petersburg’s Manny Woods (13-4-1, 5 KOs), 154.8 lbs., squared off against Carlos Garcia (8-14-1, 7 KOs), 153.8 lbs., in a six round contest. After a couple nondescript rounds, Garcia connected with a clean solid right hand on Wood’s head as the bell rang to end the third. Garcia failed to capitalize on the first telling blow of the bout, as Woods came out throwing in the fourth. Garcia never found much rhythm in the bout, allowing Woods to be the aggressor. Woods finished the night strong, landed a pair of leaping right hands that pushed Garcia back. After six rounds of back and forth action, Garcia was awarded a narrow majority decision, prevailing by 58-56 twice while one card stood deadlocked at 58-58.
Bruno Bredicean, 148.2 lbs., made a successful professional debut, defeating winless Randy Hedderick (0-4-0), 148.2 lbs., via unanimous decision (40-36). Bredicean charged forward kept his hands flying throughout the bout, never letting Hedderick settle in. After four rounds of action, Bredicean’s higher output and accuracy overcame the slightly more experienced Hedderick.
Official attendance for the night was 4,136. Premier Boxing Champions returns this Saturday, July 18th, in El Paso, Texas. Undefeated Carl Frampton is scheduled to meet Alejandro “Cobrita” Gonzalez Jr. and heavyweight contender Chris Arreola will battle Frederic Kassi. The fight card will be televised live on CBS.
July 11, 2015