Vasquez, Collazo geared up for career-defining 147-pound battle

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What happens when two skilled boxers at opposite points in their careers meet in a fight that neither believes he can afford to lose? We’re about to find out.

Sammy Vasquez Jr. and Luis Collazo

With each fighter coming off a defeat, both Sammy Vasquez Jr. (left) and Luis Collazo feel a sense of urgency heading into their 147-pound bout Thursday night in Tunica, Mississippi. (Ryan Greene/Premier Boxing Champions)

Sammy Vasquez Jr. (21-1, 15 KOs) and former 147-pound world champion Luis Collazo (36-7, 19 KOs) are each looking to get back on track following bloody defeats. But only one of them will be able do so, as they square off against each other Thursday at Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

The 10-round clash of southpaws highlights a three-hour telecast on Fox Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). Both fighters made weight Wednesday, with Vasquez checking in at 146.2 pounds and Collazo hitting the scale at 145½ pounds.

While Vasquez is coming off the first defeat of his career—a 10-round unanimous decision to 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz in July—Collazo is looking to bounce back from a seventh-round stoppage loss to 147-pound champion Keith Thurman in July 2015.

In other words, both fighters are feeling a strong sense of urgency.

“If Collazo loses to me, it’s a wrap for him, so for that reason I know he’s coming to fight,” says Vasquez, who turns 31 on April 15, seven days prior to Collazo’s 36th birthday. “I’m trying to get back into the win column. Losing two straight would really damage my career.”

Collazo is not only coming off an 18-month layoff—the second longest of his career—but he’s dropped two of his last three fights.

In addition to the loss to Thurman, in which a gash over his right eye hampered his vision and led his corner to throw in the towel, the veteran from Brooklyn, New York, also fell to ex-champion Amir Khan by unanimous decision in May 2014.

Despite his recent struggles, Collazo says he’ll enter the fight against Vasquez with plenty of confidence.

“You take the bumps and bruises and keep moving forward,” Collazo says. “I’m hungry and eager to get back in there. … This fight could be the last of everything for me.”

Vasquez and Collazo were originally set to meet July 16, but Collazo was forced to withdraw because of a severe calf injury that took months to heal. Diaz was then called upon as a late replacement, and the left-handed Dominican battered the unbeaten Vasquez on his way to a points victory that was much narrower than many believed it should’ve been.

After initially training to face an opponent of similar height—the 5-foot-10 Vasquez stands an inch taller than Collazo—the Monessen, Pennsylvania, native had to shift gears and prepare for the 5-foot-5 Diaz.

“Diaz and Collazo are similar and different,” says Vasquez, a National Guard veteran who did two tours of duty in Iraq. “Diaz is smaller, so he has to jump in and lunge to get to you, and you have to crouch and stay low to get to him. Collazo is more of a forward-moving fighter, but not a run-right-at-you type of fighter. He’ll walk you down and try to counter.”

One of the punches Collazo likely will try to counter with is the right hook, which he used to score a second-round knockout of former titleholder and fellow lefty Victor Ortiz in January 2014.

Vasquez has little doubt that his opponent will rely on the same punch that finished Ortiz. He also has little doubt he’ll find a way to avoid it.

“Collazo likes that right hook, so I know he’ll use it,” Vasquez says. “So I’ve got to maintain my composure, box smart, be alert and take as little punishment as possible.

“I’m excited to prove I’m still in this game and that people shouldn’t take that loss to Diaz like [my career is] over. Champions lose, come back and win a world title. That's my goal, and it starts with beating Luis Collazo.”

Collazo, of course, has his own goal.

“There is nothing Vasquez can bring that I won’t be ready for,” he says. “I’ll absolutely attack [Vasquez’s] body. You’ll see a little bit of everything and something he’s never seen.

“I don’t just want to win this fight; I need to win this fight. I have no other options but that.”

For complete coverage of Vasquez vs Collazo, visit our fight page.

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