Originally published 8/11/04 in print via The Resident
Corrales Thumps Freitas in Ten;
Brazilians Face Rough Night in Connecticut Woods
By Alex Pierpaoli
On Saturday August seventh, Sacramento’s Diego “Chico” Corrales stopped Acelino “Popo” Freitas at 1:24 of round ten of a 12 round contest for Freitas’ WBO Lightweight title at Foxwoods Casino. Freitas, who had boxed brilliantly over the first five rounds, gave up after being dropped a third time in the fight by a hard Corrales right hand. After beating Ref. Mike Ortega’s count, Freitas looked for guidance to his corner and then to Ortega before waving his gloved right fist in a dismissive gesture of surrender. A native of Salvador Brazil, Freitas heard his supporters’ cheers turn quickly to boos and catcalls after he retired, and the now once defeated Freitas left the arena quickly without granting Showtime’s Jim Gray a post-fight interview. Popo Freitas was just one of the three Brazilians on the card who fell victim to knockout losses in the Foxwoods Bingo Hall which was packed with a sell-out crowd of area Brazilians.
Going into the night’s main event, both Corrales and Freitas were considered the best punchers pound-for-pound by most boxing experts, considering both fighters’ records featured numerous highlight reel quality knockouts. Freitas had recently been fighting in a more elusive and careful role, a departure from his younger days as a wild swinging puncher. In January of this year Freitas won a one-sided decision over Italian Artur Grigorian down the hall at Foxwoods in their Fox Theater, the normal venue for boxing at the Connecticut casino. In that fight Freitas employed lots of lateral movement and leaping in behind power punches to beat Grigorian, securing himself the WBO 135 pound title in the process.
So when the bell rang to start round one and Freitas was up on his toes and moving, firing right hand leads at the head of Corrales, it was not surprising that the Brazilian had chosen a similar strategy to deal with his latest challenge. The busier Freitas was clearly winning the early rounds with Corrales patiently stalking him throughout. Corrales, who knows he can put an opponent’s lights out in a single stroke, was waiting for a clean shot at Freitas; meanwhile, he was losing rounds.
In the fourth, Freitas was able to land repeatedly with left-rights from the outside while changing direction frequently, never giving Chico Corrales a chance to corner him. But as Corrales was able to land with a little more frequency—still one shot at a time, however—it seemed like his power might be getting to the fleet-footed Brazilian.
At the start of the fifth Popo landed a hard left uppercut to the belly of Corrales. Warming up to the pace of the bout and his opponent, Corrales was now able to do more damage in the round, especially when Freitas would force a clinch and Corrales would bang at his side with his free arm, an acceptable and legal tactic in professional boxing.
In close, with perhaps thirty seconds to go in the fifth, Chico scored with a short chopping left hook that knocked out Freitas’ mouthpiece. Oddly, Ref. Ortega stepped in immediately to retrieve the mouthpiece and reinsert it after Oscar Suarez, Freitas trainer, rinsed it off. When the fighters were allowed to continue the bell sounded almost immediately, robbing Corrales of a chance to see whether or not Freitas was hurt by the punch. Normally a referee will wait for “a lull in the action” before replacing a fighter’s mouthpiece as the rules state and Ortega’s actions seemed misguided but he would soon have a chance to correct the transgression.
In the sixth it was clear that Freitas was tiring and finding it increasingly difficult to keep up his strategy based so heavily on lateral motion. Both fighters exchanged hard punches several times in the round and it was Freitas landing more numerous blows while Corrales landed far more infrequently but with bone-crunching power.
Freitas scored with a hard left-right combination to start the seventh but at this point his legs were starting to fail him, leaving him too close to Corrales when Chico would return fire. By the end of the eighth, Freitas was standing toe-to-toe with Corrales and firing his quick punches before moving off. When Popo stunned Corrales with a solid left hook-right hand, Corrales, excited to finally be in an exchange and close enough to do damage, fired off a left hook that put Freitas down to his knees and then to the canvas.
While down, Freitas spit out his mouthpiece, forcing Ref. Ortega to return to Oscar Suarez in Freitas’ corner to rinse the mouthpiece before putting it back in place. The time taken was close to 30 seconds and was enough for Freitas to clear his head before the fight was allowed to continue. In Corrales corner, Chico’s trainer Joe Goosen was livid over the break given to a clearly stunned fighter when his charge had finally gotten the upper hand. Ortega diffused the situation by making it clear to Freitas and trainer, Suarez, that if the mouthpiece came out again he would be forced to deduct a point from Freitas as a penalty.
In round nine, Corrales caught Freitas again with another blast that put the Brazilian flat on his back. Out came the mouthpiece again, a little trick Freitas has used in a previous bout, against Jorge Rodrigo Barrios, to gain extra time to clear his head. This time it cost him as Ortega ordered the ringside officials to deduct a point from Popo on their scorecards. When the round ended it was clear that the bout had shifted and Freitas beautiful run and gun offense in the early rounds was caving in under the power and inhuman patience of Chico Corrales.
In the tenth round, with his confidence surging, Corrales had increased his punch output and was pursuing Freitas with tiger-like relentlessness. In ring center Chico landed a thumping left-right of his own that clearly stunned Popo and seconds later another right hand put Freitas down for the third time in the bout. This time Freitas’ mouthpiece bulged his lips but did not fall out, as he tried to breathe around it watching for instructions from Suarez in his corner while he rose to beat Ortega’s count. Stepping forward it appeared Freitas was clear headed and ready to continue when he stepped away from Ortega and waved his arm in surrender. Clearly, Popo was not interested in taking anymore punches from his stronger foe and perhaps he thought returning to Brazil in one piece was better than risking his gray matter against anymore of Corrales’ terrible power.
Chico was held aloft by his handlers in celebration and the crowd that booed him so vehemently at the start of the evening cheered in recognition of a true champion’s effort and victory. When Freitas raised his arm as a gesture to the crowd he was booed lustily by the same fans who had celebrated him less than forty minutes earlier. Whether or not Freitas’ countrymen will forgive his moment of surrender—something considered more akin to cowardice by most fighters—will be determined in Popo’s future fights, while the future possibilities for Chico Corrales seem nothing but spectacular.
With the come from behind victory, Diego Corrales’ record improves to 39-2 (32kos), while Acelino Freitas falls to 35-1(31).
In the preliminary bouts, the uncrowned best fighter at 140 pounds, Sharmba Mitchell, stayed busy with a second round stoppage of Moises Pedroza. Mitchell patiently awaits the oft-recuperating from injuries Kostya Tszyu, who will finally be fit to rematch Sharmba on November sixth at a site yet to be determined. Mitchell’s quick hands and movement were barely on display long for the raucous crowd before a left uppercut put Pedroza on the canvas for a ten count. Pedroza’s record falls to 24-8-1 with 21 kayos, while Mitchell improves to 55-3 with 31 kayos, and now awaits his shot at redemption in November against undisputed 140-pound king, Tszyu.
Steve Forbes lost a 12 round decision to Thai boxer, Yodsanan Nantachai who was making his stateside debut in the Connecticut woods. Nantachai, who is called 3K Battery by his handlers—both as a favor to American sportswriters who are more used to pronouncing Thai dinner entrees than sir names—and as a promotional salute to his sponsor, a Far East battery manufacturer. Names and commercial salutes aside, Nantachai outworked Forbes over the 12 round distance ending in scores of 117-111 from all three ringside judges. Nantachai improves to 43-2-1 (35 kos) and Forbes drops to 24-3 (7kos). Nantachai, the WBA junior lightweight titlist retained his belt with the victory.
Aside from the main event, another Brazilian who saw action on the undercard was Jr. Welter, Luciano Silva. Denver’s Martin Cordova stopped Silva in the fourth and final round of their bout with a sizzling left hook. Cordova, who was making his pro-debut, is now 1-0 with 1 kayo while Silva falls to 3-1 with 3 kayos, much to the disappointment of the assembled Brazilian horde.
Completing the trifecta of knockout losses for Brazil was Aberivaldo Dos Santos of Bahia, who was finished off in round five of a scheduled six rounder by Philadelphia’s Ramazan Palyani. Palyani is now undefeated in 9 starts as a pro with five of those wins coming via the knockout. Dos Santos’ record drops to 1-2 (1ko).
Also, Felix Cora Jr. defeated Jernell Barnes with a unanimous decision adding the vacant NABF belt to his USBA cruiserweight title. Cora is now 15-0-2 (7kos) while Barnes falls to 16-6 (4kos).