Sunday Convo: Alexis Rocha is ready for primetime; Oscar Collazo brings a title to P.R. & more

It was another big crowd on Saturday night at the Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino, where the hard-core boxing fans gather to see a good fight card. The main event featured welterweight contender Alexis Rocha (23-1, 15 KOs) taking on Anthony ‘Juice’ Young (24-3, 8 KOs) in a scheduled ten-round fight. This fight was scheduled after Rocha waited around for a Terence Crawford fight, and when that didn’t materialize, he needed to stay busy, so Young was then booked for the event.

Although Young talked up the fight well during the week, once the bell rang to start the fight, you could clearly see that they were levels apart. Rocha looked comfortable, and his stance and foundation seemed solid as ever. There was something different about Rocha last night. It could have been the big crowd in the arena that motivated him or the fact that he had been overlooked, but one thing is for sure, Rocha appeared locked in. His combinations were good, Rocha never looked out of position, and he saw everything Young had for him. Last night, Rocha scored the fifth-round stoppage, but more importantly, he showed his boss Oscar De La Hoya, who was in attendance, that he is ready for the next level.


So what is the next step for Rocha since the belts are tied up, at least for this year? There are plenty of fights out there, but most of the opponents are with the PBC. If they can work it out, one name on the PBC side would make for a very interesting but expensive fight: Keith Thurman (30-1, 22 KOS). He is not scheduled to fight anyone, but putting Thurman against Rocha would be the kind of fight that tells you if Rocha is really ready. If that fight can’t happen, then maybe Rocha gets Vergil Ortiz Jr (19-0, 19 KOS) if he defeats WBA regular welterweight champ Eimantas Stannionis (14-0, 9 KOs) in July. A fight between Ortiz Jr. and Rocha will certainly pack any venue in Southern California. Until then, Rocha is in a great position regarding options, and Saturday night’s performance proved he is more than ready for the big challenges.


The minimumweight division isn’t the sexiest one out there, but it was one of the more anticipated bouts on Saturday night for the purists that enjoy watching the smaller weight classes tangle. Puerto Rico’s Oscar Collazo (7-0, 5 KOs) dared to be great as he fought for the WBO title against then-champion Melvin Jerusalem (20-4, 12 KOs). Let’s understand something, Jerusalem hits like a sledgehammer, and Collazo understood that really early in the fight. But Collazo understood the assignment and knew that if he dedicated his offense to the body of Jerusalem, that pine tree would go down, and that’s precisely what happened. It was clear that Collazo’s footwork and rhythm were better than Jerusalem’s, but the swelling underneath his left eye said that Jerusalem’s power was real.

Collazo chopped that tree down, and when it was clear Jerusalem could not take those body punches, his corner stopped the fight once he sat down on his stool at the end of the seventh round. After winning the WBO crown, Collazo was full of emotions and said, “We knew we had a solid challenge ahead of us, but thanks to my corner, they helped me stay calm throughout the fight. I knew I had to establish the pace with my jab, and by the fourth or fifth round, we started to hit the body, and he didn’t like it. We chopped the tree, and we made history for Villalba. I will see you all in Puerto Rico in August, where I will make my first title defense.” 


Questions were coming into this fight whether Michael Conlan (18-2, 2 KOs) has seen his best days go by or if he had another run. That question was answered through a crushing knockdown by Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) in the fifth round and Conlan’s corner throwing in the towel. Although Lopez’s awkward style resembles WBO super featherweight champ Emmanuel Navarette (37-1, 31 KOs), Conlan’s timing just wasn’t there. His delayed reaction was alarming, and he was noticeably tired early in the fight. All credit goes to Lopez as he noticed it all right from the start and didn’t mind going into Conlan’s kitchen as he knew his shots would have more meaning than the ones he received. Before we get into Conlan some more, flowers must be given to Lopez, who has now defeated Conlan and Josh Warrington thousands of miles away from his home in Mexico with little chance of coming out victorious. He didn’t allow it to go to the judges and is now in a great position to ask for the bigger money fights.


Back to Conlan, who is 31 years old and has been a pro for over six years. He isn’t considered old, but his lengthy amateur career, which includes a bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics, may have caught up to him. He squeezed down to super bantamweight for quite a few fights, and those things start to catch up with you later in life. That knockout loss to Leigh Wood was also taxing and one that continues to affect him. He didn’t look good at all, and before he gets into another fight where he suffers another brutal knockout, he should consider retiring. Fighters usually wait too long to decide, but he should be financially comfortable enough to leave the sport with what is left of his faculties. He entertained the fans for years, but now is the time to think about how he wants to feel physically in the future. Let’s hope Conlan makes the right choice for him and his family.

There was much to cover in this edition of the Sunday Convo as we gear up for the bigger fights in the summer. Next week, the conversation will be on the big women’s title fight in Detroit and the return of the can man.