Freitas and Raheem make it look ugly at Foxwoods
By Alex Pierpaoli
originally posted at DoghouseBoxing.com
HBO’s Boxing After Dark series returned to the airwaves the weekend with what seemed like an exciting match-up at Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Uncasville, CT. On paper, Acelino Freitas versus Zahir Raheem looked like the classic style match-up of slugger versus boxer in the two principals but the result looked a lot more like classically bad fights like Mike Tyson versus Bonecrusher Smith or the third bout between Evander Holyfield and John Ruiz, which ironically, took place in the same room; Foxwoods Bingo Hall. Freitas and Raheem fought to determine the Lightweight Champion and at the end of twelve rounds Freitas prevailed by split decision to the delight of the Brazilians on hand if not all of the boxing experts.
Despite an enthusiastic crowd full of fans and well-wishers, many of whom brought their own percussion instruments and flags, Brazilian Acelino Freitas and Philadelphia’s Zahir Raheem clutched, grabbed, shoved and grappled with each other for twelve close rounds which saw Freitas prevail by split decision.
Coming into the bout the two defeats-a single loss blemishes each fighter’s record-Raheem’s to Juarez by close and many say bad decision, and Freitas’ the spectacle versus Corrales; speak volumes about both of them as fighters. Raheem’s single defeat going into the bout was a hometown decision for Rocky Juarez that most felt Raheem deserved to win. But Zahir Raheem is all business, the Juarez loss didn’t ruin him; he went into the Morales fight this past September as an expected tune-up for El Terrible and Raheem turned into last years upset of the year.
Acelino Freitas’ loss was the last time he was in the Foxwoods Bingo hall when he committed a mortal sin for most fighters-he quit. He couldn’t take any more form Diego Corrales; albeit one of the sport’s most fearsome punches, but still a fighter goes out on his shield or is saved by a zealous referee, a concerned corner, fighters traditionally do not quit. Popo Freitas did but the assembled fans didn’t sound like they held it against him as they chanted Po-po, Po-po!
Especially when about a minute into the first round there’s a head butt and Popo starts with the dramatics. Freitas does indignation well, he was already complaining to ref Steve Smoger in round one. Smoger was to have a busy night, ruling on shove-downs and pulling the two lightweights apart over and over again.
Raheem got a warning for takedowns from Smoger. Popo missed with a wide left and Raheem avoided it and made it look pretty. The strategy of Raheem early looked like it was going to be shoot and grab and make Freitas miss, tire him out. Popo’s strategy looked like he wanted to takes Raheem’s head off with a power punch from either hand.
They were throwing everything into the rushes at each other and they got tangled up a lot. Popo was complaining that Raheem was muscling him too much, rough-housing too much. Not much happened in the second round, lots of rough stuff and more whining by Freitas, the ring generalship belonged to Raheem, big-time.
Raheem got a taste of power and a warning for the takedowns and he layed back a bit in the third looking for openings and getting out of the way of lunging blows from Popo.
Freitas landed and brushed Raheem down to the canvas in what sort of looked like a knockdown but is just another time these guys would spend time on the deck from shoves or trips. The fourth was Freitas’ round big.
Popo connected with a right in the fifth and Raheem came right back to make him pay for it with ripping shots to the body. The chant of U-S-A went up and got shouted down by screams of Bra-Sil, Bra-Sil!
A big left-right from Raheem made Popo clinch, Raheem shoved loose and Popo goes down and he does the mouthpiece trick he used versus Corrales to buy some time when it appeared he was clearly buzzed from that right from Raheem. It appeared Raheem sensed it too and he begged ref Steve Smoger not to disqualify him for the shove. Raheem even went down on one knee.
Popo battled back in the seventh and scored with a flurry to the guts which made Raheem clinch but by the end of the round Raheem is scoring with one punch at a time and making Popo miss a lot.
The Popo friendly crowd was booing in spots and sitting on their hands for long stretches, the rounds were close and there were not a lot of haymakers landed by their lightweight king.
The crowd came to life in the 9th when Freitas stunned Raheem but it was a very sloppy fight with lots of rough housing and not a lot of clean punches landed.
Before the bell to start the twelfth the crowd whipped itself up into a frenzy, solo cheers of Po-po catching and joined by the well-wishers. It has looked looks like a close fight and the crowd was cheering wildly, the bell sounded and both men walked right out into a clinch. This writer counted 15 clinches, and two of them Smoger didn’t separate but they got out of it themselves.
At round’s end both fighters are celebrating and frankly this writer didn’t know what the Brazilians were so happy about, my card had Raheem up 117-113 or 8-3-1 in rounds. But the official cards were much closer. Judges Steve Weisfeld and Glenn Feldman scored it 115-113 and 116-112, respectively, both for Acelino Freitas. While the third judge, Clark Sammartino tabbed Raheem the winner by a score of 115-113.
Afterwards, the press conference was held in competition with an impromptu concert by Brazilian fans that all seemed to bring their own percussion instruments to the fight. Popo was first to the mike and sang to the assembled crowd who were just out of site behind a platform but certainly not out of earshot. He spoke in Portuguese to the fans and after a while Zahir Raheem emerged form the locker room dressed in a suit.
As to describe the bout Zahir Raheem spoke into the mike.
“It was a very ugly fight,” said Raheem. “I felt it…It was a real ugly fight, it was a dog fight…Styles make fights, that’s about it. It was an awkward fight. That’s how it turned out.”
Raheem was asked about landing the better ratio of punches thrown.
“Well according to punch stat, I mean, I thought that’s what wins fight; if you land the harder blows and you land the more effective blows, you land more punches than your opponent then I believe that’s what causes you to win the fight. Or is it the person that scores the less punches wins? I thought I won the fight but I give Popo Freitas credit. He’s a good fighter. He won the fight. You know what I mean? I got another bad break.”
Would Raheem like a rematch?
What would you do differently in a rematch, Zahir?
“Should I say out punch him? Throw more punches than him? Land the bigger blows? Should I say that? No, I can’t say that, because I already done that. So what can I do? Knock him out, maybe?”
Oscar Suarez, Freitas’ trainer, was asked to give his fighter a letter grade for the night.
“I’d give him a C+.”
As they were leaving, members of Raheem’s camp put the crown Raheem wore into the ring onto Popo’s head. Flash cameras go off and then hands snatch it away quickly in a burst of laughing, but the drums are thumping and sand keeps grinding and Popo is all smiles.
Freitas moves to 38-1 (32) and may challenge the winner of Castillo-Corrales 3, after some time off to be with family. While Raheem gets the short end of a second controversial decision and leaves Connecticut at 27-2 (16).
Andy Kolle didn’t know how to lose as a professional fighter, so the upstart Andre Ward took it upon himself to teach him in the evening’s televised co-feature. Ward, the only boxer to bring a Gold Medal home from Athens in 2004, showcased his rapidly improving skills in an impressive outing versus a tough opponent who did his best to win despite the gulf in talent.
Ward sent straight right hands through the southpaw guard of Kolle in the early going and by the fourth round the gold-medalist had widened the gap in class, landing clean accurate power punches from a multitude of angles. Although Ward’s punches were snapping back the head of Kolle and spraying sweat with each impact, Kolle seemed unphased by Ward’s power. The southpaw Kolle made for a competitive opponent for the developing Ward but in the sixth Ward landed at will, showing some real artistic skill. Had it been an amateur bout it would have been stopped by the “outclassed” rule.
As a pro Ward settled for a win by sixth round technical knockout when Kolle was stopped by the consensus of doctor and referee.
Ward moves to 9-0 (5) and Kolle ends up at 9-1 (7).
Brazil’s Luciano Silva, 7-1 (4), won a unanimous decision over Deon Nash, 5-2 (1), in a six rounder that featured lots of punches thrown but not much leather landed. Silva did more damage with wild power punches while Nash’s shots seemed just a little short of the target throughout the fight.
In a geographic preview of the Main Event, Brazil’s Carmelito DeJesus, 4-0 (3), battled Philadelphia’s Darrell Crenshaw, 1-5-1 in a scheduled four rounder that ended when Crenshaw could not answer the bell to start the third.
Heavyweights, Alonzo Butler and Zach Page, rumbled in a sloppy but entertaining fight that saw both men scoring well in spurts of action. Page, who spent much of the bout retreating and dodging the heavy fists of Butler, finally backed himself straight into a corner where Butler crumpled him with a right to the jaw at the end of the fifth. Butler improved to 22-0-1 (17) with the kayo while Page fell to 10-7 (4).
The quick of hand and foot, Vincent Arroyo, now 5-0 (3) got the evening started off with a unanimous decision over John Lipscomb, 2-2. Using a multitude of double left hooks to the body and head Arroyo outworked Lipscomb over the course of the four rounder.