TAMPA, Fla. -- Keith Thurman, hailed by many as boxing's next big star, had to survive rocky moments in the fifth round but otherwise dominated Luis Collazo to retain his welterweight world title in an eighth-round knockout victory before a raucous hometown crowd Saturday night in the debut of Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN at the USF Sun Dome.
Collazo, who badly hurt Thurman with a body shot in the fifth round, suffered a terrible cut over his right eye in the seventh. He had blood pouring from the cut after the round and said he could not see out of the eye, so the fight was stopped one second into the eighth.
Thurman retained his 147-pound belt for the second time and then called out pound-for-pound king and recognized welterweight world champion Floyd Mayweather, who is looking for a Sept. 12 opponent for what he has repeatedly said will be the final fight of a brilliant, so-far-unbeaten career.
"I'm a young, strong champion, Floyd. Come get it," Thurman said. "I'm undefeated like you, baby. Come take my 0 baby! Come take my 0! I'm ready. I'm ready."
Thurman was aggressive from the outset while Collazo looked to lay back to see what he had in front of him. But Thurman began to land shots in the second round, nailing Collazo with a left and right hand in succession that got the crowd going. He punctuated the round with a right hand that snapped Collazo's head back.
The action was more even in the third round, but it was Collazo who emerged with a welt under his left eye. While Collazo's offense was virtually nonexistent, the quicker Thurman opened the fifth round with an onslaught of punches that seemed to have Collazo in a little trouble.
But late in the round, Collazo visibly hurt Thurman with a left hand to the body that had Thurman in trouble as he tried to stay away and catch his wind.
"This performance man, we trained hard for this camp," Thurman said. "Luis Collazo, I want to give it up to him, all respect. He's a great veteran. He came and he fought hard and caught me with a great body shot. But I took it and endured it like a great champion does and didn't go down.
"We kept going. We kept digging him with shots, giving a little bit of power each round, and we broke him down."
Collazo said he thought he had a chance to at least drop Thurman after he hurt him with the body shot, but he ran out of time in the round.
"I was trying to set him up for the left hand with him going to my left, and he was wide open," Collazo said. "So I caught him with the liver shot. I think if I would have had a little more time, I probably could have [knocked him down]."
Collazo (36-7, 19 KOs), a 34-year-old southpaw from Brooklyn, New York, was chasing a moving Thurman around the ring in the seventh round, but Thurman stopped to land a shot that busted open a nasty cut that poured blood from over Collazo's right eye as the crowd chanted "Keith! Keith!"
After the round ended, Collazo was asked by his corner if he wanted the fight stopped.
"That's up to y'all. I can't see," he said.
And with that, referee Telis Assimenios stopped the fight -- which Thurman led 69-64, 69-64 and 68-65. The crowd of 4,136 went wild as Thurman (26-0, 22 KOs), 26, of nearby Clearwater, climbed the ring post to accept the cheers from a crowd that included recent International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Riddick Bowe, former undisputed junior middleweight champion and close Thurman friend Winky Wright, and ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale.
"I guess in the [seventh] round he caught me with another clean shot and the blood just kept going in my eyes," said Collazo, whose purse was $500,000 to Thurman's $1.5 million. "I couldn't see nothing. I'm the type of fighter who just keeps going if I could. I couldn't see, so I'm better safe than sorry."
For the fight, Thurman landed 119 of 348 punches (34 percent); Collazo connected on just 76 of 244 (31 percent).
"He's been a huge underdog his whole career," Thurman said of Collazo. "And he upset a lot of people and made a lot of world champions look bad, so I am not overly impressed with how he came out and performed. I knew he would come out and perform like this. He had a shot to come out and take my world title back to Brooklyn and he fought like a true champion. And so did I."
Now the question is: Will Mayweather take the bait and fight Thurman? He is clearly the most deserving welterweight other than Amir Khan -- both of whom are, like Mayweather, with adviser and PBC creator Al Haymon, meaning there are none of the political obstacles that so often bog down the making of major fights.
But it seems unlikely that Thurman will get his wish to fight Mayweather.
A few days ago, Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, told ESPN.com, "Keith Thurman is a very, very good young fighter who is extremely talented, but he doesn't understand how the game goes. Ain't nobody [on Team Mayweather] thinking about Keith Thurman.
"He's a terrific fighter and he's supposed to call out Floyd Mayweather. He wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't. But everything we want we don't always get."
Thurman, however, hopes Mayweather will change his mind.
"We can go back to camp right now," said Thurman, who was also the headliner for the first PBC on NBC card in prime time on March 7, when he rolled to a dominant decision in an exciting fight against Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. "You see my six pack. I can run laps right now. It is what it is, man.
"Outside of Floyd, there are a lot of great champions in the welterweight division and they know who to call. His name is Al Haymon. Call Al Haymon, baby. I beat this fighter and I can beat any fighter."