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Berto finally faces legitimate test in Collazo

200px-luis_collazo_medium No doubt about it, I'm an Andre Berto fan.

The Haitian-American's rise to the upper class of the welterweight ranks has been stunning to watch transpire. Currently, the 25-year old Berto sits on a perfect 23-0 record, with 19 knockouts. He took the WBC welterweight title vacated by the "retired" Money Mayweather.

His talents are obvious. Hand speed, ferocity, power that adds up if not so big one-punch thunder.

Yet there's the itching feeling somewhere that Berto, as it is right now, is sitting on something of a throne of lies.

The WBC title he holds is a paper championship. It means nothing. It was put up for grabs when Berto fought Miki Rodriguez, who was nowhere near championship-level.

Prior to that, Berto built his rising star on names like Miguel Figueora, Norberto Bravo, Cosme Rivera, David Estrada and Michel Trabant. I'm not trying to insult any of those men, but Rivera and Estrada are the two best fighters mentioned, and both are gatekeepers.

Steve Forbes challenged Berto in September, and was easily outclassed over 12 rounds. You know why? Because as much as we all like Steve Forbes, he isn't that good, and he's not a welterweight.

On Saturday night, with HBO televising, Berto will take on his first true test. Luis Collazo is no superstar -- it's not the risk Berto was willing to take against Shane Mosley before Sugar's fight with Antonio Margarito panned out. But it's a legitimate challenge.

It's a test. It's another step up.

Berto thus far has acquitted himself very nicely in each step. Only Rivera knocked him down, and Berto sprang back into the fight with ease, winning a wide decision against a tough guy.

Collazo is best known as Ricky Hatton's first welterweight opponent back in 2006. Since beating Jose Antonio Rivera for the WBA welterweight strap in 2005, Collazo's career has been a series of unfortunate events. Some will still argue he deserved to be the man that took Hatton's "0." After that, it gets a little fuzzy.

Between his disputed loss to Hatton and a clear loss to Shane Mosley during which Collazo was injured, Collazo beat Artur Atadzhanov in Arizona. Atadzhanov was a 10-5 fighter at the time. After nearly a year out of commission following the Mosley fight, Collazo has gone 2-0, both wins over guys he had no trouble with, and shouldn't have.

Now, Collazo steps back into the lion's den against Berto. For as much as it might seem like I'm sort of dissing Berto right now, I'm not. He's a clear favorite against Collazo. He's younger, stronger, fresher, has been more active.

But has Berto been in with a crafty southpaw on Collazo's level? Has he faced even a top 20 welter, let alone an arguable top 10 guy?

It's Collazo's style that should most worry Berto's team and his biggest supporters. Against Collazo, you get nothing for free. He's a sound technician and smart fighter. Berto's mind has not been tested the way it will be on Saturday.

Berto is clearly being positioned as one of boxing's next big stars, and he's earned that right. Luis Collazo, though, won't care what plans HBO might have for Berto, or how promoters see Berto faring at the box office in two or three years.

If Berto lets him, Collazo will find holes. He'll pick at them. He'll frustrate Berto. And then you've got a real fight on your hands. But if Collazo isn't 100% ready, isn't in great shape, and gets overwhelmed early by Berto's speed and energy level, it could be a short night of work.

In other words, color me intrigued by this matchup. We'll have live, round-by-round coverage and scoring of Berto-Collazo on Saturday night here at Bad Left Hook.

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