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From a dead end to a possible fight against Floyd Mayweather

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

It's about 18 hours after the biggest victory of his life, and Luis Collazo remains ebullient. It's been a non-stop stream of well-wishers and back-slappers, a day filled with attaboys after knocking out Victor Ortiz on Thursday in the second round of their welterweight bout at the Barclays Center in New York.

As stunning as the finish was – Collazo is not known as a knockout puncher – the victory suddenly made Collazo relevant in the welterweight division, the home of one Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Collazo has long been a quality boxer, but he's lived on the outskirts of contention. He was the B-side when he fought Ricky Hatton in 2006, and lost a decision he probably should have won.

The same thing happened in 2009, when he lost to Andre Berto in a stirring bout in which it seemed he'd done enough to have his hand raised.

He was promoted by Don King at a time when the aging King didn't have a lot of business, and so Collazo sat idle, hoping for the phone to ring with word of a fight.

Circumstance got him one final major shot. Golden Boy was promoting the return of Ortiz after nearly two years off. It looked to Collazo, a Brooklyn native, to give a local flair to the card to help push tickets.

The promotion was about Ortiz, but Collazo knew what victory would mean: This was his last shot at relevance. A win would put him in play for a big-money, meaningful fight.

As he arrived at the Barclays Center for the weigh-in, a strange feeling overcame Collazo.

"I was so peaceful, so calm, so happy, so relaxed," Collazo told Yahoo Sports. "I knew God was with me. I knew what was going to happen."

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Luis Collazo's second-round knockout of Victor Ortiz has put his career back in motion. (USA TODAY Sports)

What happened was a right hook that put Ortiz down for the 10-count and left Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs) in the center of the ring asking for a Mayweather bout.

It was the most significant victory of his boxing career, but it wasn't the most significant victory in his life.

Collazo, it seemed, was born to become a statistic. He was doing drugs at 10, in a relationship with a woman at 11 and a father at 13.

In the afterglow of the victory over Ortiz, he mused about the possibility of a fight with Mayweather, one that seemed virtually impossible hours before but that is now at least in the realm of possibility.

"A guy like Floyd wouldn't ever think of me," said Collazo, 32. "Who was I? What had I ever done? But I turned my life over to God and once I did, things happened for me."

He couldn't help but think of his brothers, both of whom are in prison in Puerto Rico. One is 19 years old, the same age as Collazo's daughter, and is doing life in jail. The other brother is serving seven years on a drug conviction.

Easily, Collazo said, he could be sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Boxing saved him, though there were times when it seemed as if he didn't want to be saved.

"Growing up, I didn't have any positive role models in my life," he said. "I was running the streets at a very young age, and there is nothing good that can come from running the streets.

"Boxing saved my life. I got to the gym and having that saved me, there is no doubt about it."

He began to box at the Starrett City Boxing Club in Brooklyn when he was 9. His father brought him there hoping to teach him some discipline and keep him out of trouble.

It took a while, but it began to work.

When Collazo became a father, a dose of reality hit him.

"At that age, you're not equipped [to be a father]," he said. "A 13-year-old still has a lot of growing to do. It was hard, very hard [to raise a child while still a child]. I'm not going to lie, but it matured me."

He and his daughter, Tiffany, have a good relationship, a direct result of him turning around his life.

Before he did, he said, he was trouble. He was drinking so heavily one day, his wife was afraid to return home, not sure, he says, "what kind of a person she was going home to."

Collazo said that night, as he was in a drunken stupor, he said he prayed for guidance.

"I was at a very bad stage and I spoke to God," Collazo said. "I told Him, 'Lead me out of this darkness and I'll turn my life over to you.' I was desperate and had nowhere else to turn."

The next morning, when he awakened, the problems in his life that had troubled him seemed so trivial, so far away.

"I woke up the happiest I have ever been," Collazo said. "I have great faith now, and I pray to God all the time. I live an obedient life, and I'm an example that anything can happen."

He called out Mayweather in the ring after the fight. And though he's not going to be the opponent for Mayweather's next bout, on May 3 in Las Vegas, Collazo suddenly believes he's relevant in the division.

He believes it's a fight he can win, because he says Mayweather won't break him mentally the way he has so many others.

Collazo knows not many believe he can do it, or even deserve it, and he's fine with that.

"My brother is just a baby, and his life is wasted, and he's going to sit in that prison for years, man, for the rest of his life," he said. "For what? There is no reason for that. It just hurts to think of it. But that was where I was headed, the exact same path.

"But since I've found God, I'm different. I'm different as a person, I'm different as a fighter, I'm different all around. I believe now, and faith is a very powerful thing. Given what I've overcome, I don't believe anything is impossible now."

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