FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, Jan. 14, 2008) - World-class welterweight boxer Luis Collazo got a taste of Army life during a recent trip to Columbia, S.C., much of which was spent here at Fort Jackson preparing for an upcoming bout in the ring.

The former-world-champion climbs in the ring at Madison Square Garden Jan. 19 for his first fight since losing a decision to Shane Mosley nearly a year ago and sustaining a thumb injury that required surgery.

Ranked No. 7 in the world by "The Ring" magazine, Collazo chose Columbia for training because of Andrew Stokes, a former Fort Jackson Soldier turned boxing promoter. Stokes, who retired in 2006, has promoted boxing shows on post and coordinated visits from fighters such as "Tremendous" Travis Simms, Jaidon Codrington and Randy Griffin.

Stokes has known Collazo for years, and even hosted his training camp, living with Collazo and his team, cooking, cleaning and overseeing the fighter's daily training.

Collazo's training regimen consisted of pounding miles of Fort Jackson pavement and sparring at the White Rock boxing gym.

"This is probably the best training camp I've had," Collazo said. "I'm enjoying myself, but this is more intense than I usually train. It keeps me motivated."

Both men said Fort Jackson's facilities are top-notch, but there are plenty of places to train outside the gates. Stokes had another reason for bringing Collazo to Fort Jackson.

"I brought Luis on post to give back to the Soldiers," he said. "I appreciate the 20 years I had in the Army and still feel like a Soldier at times. I can bring world champions here for meet and greets, and that's my way of giving back."

In between workouts, Collazo visited with Basic Combat Training Soldiers, spending two days with the Soldiers of Co. B, 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment.

He toured the barracks, ate dinner at a post dining facility, spoke to troops and personally autographed pictures for every Soldier in the battalion. In turn, he had the Soldiers sign an Army T-shirt for him.

A highlight for Collazo was firing the M-16 for the first time, although he said his accuracy in the ring did not translate to the Basic Marksmanship Range.

"I hit about one target in like, 75," he joked. "But it was a rush. It was great. It's something I will never forget."

Collazo even ran a physical training test with 1st Bn., 34th Inf. Reg., and the man who can bob, weave, hook and jab for 12 rounds while barely breaking a sweat said he was a little tense beforehand.

"I was more nervous doing the PT test than coming into the ring for a fight," he said. "It was an incredible experience and, honestly, I was a little intimidated. That is their battleground like (the ring) is mine."

Pvt. Ikram Mansori, a BCT Soldier with Co. B, has been a fan of Collazo for some time. She said she and her brother enjoyed watching Collazo's fights, but never imagined she would one day do PT with one of her favorite prizefighters.

"It was amazing. I think everybody did better on that PT test," she said. "When we were running, during the hardest part, he came back to run with the ones who were starting to give up. It was just amazing."

Pvt. Blanca Rodriguez, also with Co. B, was thankful for the encouragement to "go harder" and "do more."

"I thought it was awesome that he cared so much to come out here and spend time with us," she said.

The interaction was mutually beneficial, according to Collazo: "It was definitely as motivating for me as it was for them."

Sgt. 1st Class Santos Soto, Co. B's drill sergeant, said the timing was great.

"Without a doubt, this was very motivating for our Soldiers, especially right before Christmas exodus," Soto said. "He talked to them about the importance of what they do. Everyone was motivated from his speech, and a lot of them were just in awe."

Collazo said it is important to "show our troops that we care and respect them for what they do for our country," and he plans on honoring servicemembers and remembering his time with the Soldiers on fight night.

Instead of the flashy, sequined robes often donned by big-name boxers, Collazo plans to enter the ring wearing his gray and black PT shirt, adorned only with the word "Army" and the signatures of the Soldiers of the 1st Bn., 34th Inf. Reg.

(Heath Hamacher writes for the Fort Jackson "Leader.")

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16