The packed card at the Barclays Center in Prospect Heights tomorrow night features one certain Hall of Famer, young guns with fresh faces and compelling back stories to stir media interest, and the pride of Bensonnhurst, Paul Malignaggi, who will walk triumphantly to center stage, showing off his WBA welterweight title to adoring friends and family.
But there is a guy on the card who is a former world champ, who has fought and been competitive with some of the game's top dogs, who grew up and lives in nearby Williamsburg, but has been a bit off the radar, both in the game and in the lead-up to the boxing debut at the new building.
Luis Collazo, a 31-year-old welterweight, will have to work hard to collect a bigger sliver of spotlight at Barclays when he gloves up against Steve Upsher Chambers in a scrap set for eight or less.
I asked Collazo, in so many words, where the heck he has been. After a June 2009 victory, he wasn't in the ring again until April 2011. He scored a TKO3, then met Freddy Hernandez six months later. Collazo lost a UD10, and was again on the shelf.
I had heard whispers on the grapevine, so I tried to tactfully ask the fighter if there was anything to them? Had he been on state-sponsored vacation? Battling an urge to splurge when it came to the partying department? "Nope, I was never locked up, and I was never on drugs," he told me. "My only addiction is tattoos."
Collazo explained that he was signed to Don King, and since King hasn't been staging that many cards in the last few years, he was inactive. "I was on the shelf," he said. "But I haven't been in wars. I feel great, I'm in my prime now."
Collazo said he's pumped to fight in front of the Williamsburg crew. That section is a hipster haven now, but Collazo has seen it morph, when a seedy element, lots of drugs and prostitution, were prevalent. He said he's ready, like Billyburg, to move up the ladder, stand out as one of the borough's best.
He won a WBA welter crown against Jose A. Rivera in 2005, was in a pick 'em scrap with Ricky Hatton the following year, and dropped UDs to Shane Mosley and Andre Berto in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Getting back to 2005 form is a tall order, but he insists that physically and mentally, he's primed: "At Barclays, I have to be aggressive, take my time and let my experience kick in."