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Clay Collard is back on Tuesday, and you want to tune in to see him fight

The former UFC fighter has turned into one of boxing’s weird bright spots in 2020.

Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

“How do you train for someone like Collard?!”

That’s what former two-division world champion Timothy Bradley Jr asked on ESPN airwaves back on June 18, when ex-UFC fighter Clay Collard was in the middle of administering a beating to 19-year-old prospect David Kaminsky.

Collard, 27, would go on to win that fight via split decision, which makes it seem like Kaminsky had an argument, but he really didn’t. Collard (7-2-3, 2 KO) won that fight. He out-hustled and out-fought Kaminsky, and though he took plenty of shots from the youngster, he simply gave the teenager a lesson in pressure and determination, dishing out more than he received.

“The key to victory is just keep pushing, will the win,” Collard said after the fight, summing things up simply and putting a motto onto his limited but very rugged boxing style.

“Get after him, stay after him, don’t show him that you’re hurt or tired, just will that win. You’re gonna take shots, you’re gonna get hurt. If you show that you’re hurt, they’re gonna jump on you. We’re fighting lions in here. If they smell blood, they’re going for the kill. I try my best not to show I’m hurt. It’s hard sometimes, but I just push through.”

And it wasn’t Collard’s first upset of the year, either. Back on Feb. 1 — which seems like a lifetime ago here on July 13 — Collard was in a war with another hyped teenage prospect, PBC’s Raymond Guajardo. Coming into that one, Collard was adamant that this would be his last fight in boxing, as he intended to switch his focus back to an MMA career, where he’s got an 18-8 career record, and went 1-3 in four UFC fights in 2014-15.

They were trading right away. Collard was able to drag Guajardo into the vicious fight that he needed to have a chance. Guajardo went down twice in the first round, but Collard was down once in the same frame.

Collard, though, hurt Guajardo again late in the first, and Guajardo just couldn’t recover between rounds. Referee Keith Hughes had to step in and award Collard the fight at 1:42 of round two, with Guajardo just taking too many shots.

As a boxer, Clay Collard has fought between junior middleweight and light heavyweight, a 21-pound gap. He is truly, genuinely fearless. His style is basic, and if you were scouting him you’d say he stays too squared up and his defense is too leaky, and even apart from that, he’s too willing to take shots to give some in return.

But that’s his style. And that’s what makes him a nightmare for prospects like Guajardo and Kaminsky, who have talent but are also young and filled with a certain amount of ego that comes from being told how great you’re going to be all the time.

Collard has no great delusions about future stardom, really. He is a blue collar fighter, but he is truly a fighter. He’s battle-tested in two sports. And while he was a prelim guy in UFC just as he has been in boxing, he has seen those bright lights and big stages of UFC. He has been to the show, so to speak, and pressure doesn’t seem to daunt him whatsoever.

On Tuesday, Clay Collard is back — and this time, he’s the A-side. He’ll be facing LT Nelson (5-3, 4 KO), a 30-year-old club fighter originally from South Africa, now based in Colorado. In Nelson’s last fight on Jan. 24, he was dominated over six rounds in a club bout against Shawn McCalman at the Jeffco Faigrounds in Golden, Colorado.

Six of Nelson’s eight pro fights have been in Colorado, which isn’t exactly a hotbed for big time boxing. The other two, both losses, came when he was booked as an opponent for young prospects in Quebec.

Maybe Top Rank see a little bit in Collard, but if they do, it’s probably a bit cynical. Giving Collard a couple more televised wins and trying to take advantage of his budding cult hero status with diehard fans is smart, but I doubt anyone really expects him to become a title contender or anything. The endgame may instead be keeping Collard on TV in his always-fun fights, and then feeding him to a prospect they’re sure will beat him.

Of course, PBC and Top Rank were probably sure their last two prospects would beat him, too.

Either way, you’ll want to tune in and see Clay Collard tomorrow night. We don’t really get a whole lot of purely fun stories in the boxing world these days, as everything is so micromanaged and calculated, and this is a guy who’s come halfway out of left field to be one of the few little bright spots in a year that has devastated boxing’s relevance and output.

Bad Left Hook will have live coverage for the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card on Tuesday evening starting at 8 pm ET on ESPN.

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