Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Best I Faced: Acelino Freitas


Wildly-popular Brazilian power-puncher Acelino Freitas regularly thrilled audiences between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, winning world titles in two weight classes.

Freitas was born in Salvador, Bahia, in the North East of Brazil on Sept. 21, 1975. His early years were tough and he grew up in extreme poverty.

“I grew up in a house that was 35 square feet – it was smaller than a boxing ring – with five people living there, with no bathroom,” Freitas told The Ring through Patrick Nascimento.

“I was hungry and very poor, and the thing that changed everything was boxing. I didn’t choose boxing, boxing chose me. Of the thousands of Brazilians who box, I was chosen by God.”

After winning silver at the Pan Am games, “Popo” turned professional in July 1995. He scored a first-round knockout, a result which would become commonplace as the dynamic young prospect moved through the ranks. That vaunted power quickly caught the attention of the right people and Freitas fought in Costa Rica, Mexico, the U.S. and the U.K.

Four years into his pro career, with a record of 20-0 (20 knockouts), Freitas was rewarded with a championship fight against WBO junior lightweight titleholder Anatoly Alexandrov in France.

It was an opportunity that Freitas wasn’t going to pass up and he knocked the Kazakhstan-born champion cold midway through the opening round. Alexandrov was taken from the ring on a stretcher and the secret was out.

Freitas considers this his proudest moment in boxing. “Winning the world title changed my life,” he said.

Included in his nine successful defenses were Barry Jones (TKO8), future IBF lightweight titleholder Javier Jauregui (KO 1), sturdy veteran Carlos Rios (TKO 9), long-time contender Orlando Soto (KO 1) and a unification win against WBA counterpart Joel Casamayor (UD 12) in early 2002.

During his title run, Freitas fought a non-title bout up at lightweight, winning a 10-round shutout against grizzled Ghanaian veteran Alf Kotey. It was his 30th fight and the first time he was taken the distance in his professional career.

In August 2003, Freitas defended his WBA and WBO junior lightweight titles against Jorge Barrios in a thriller. The champion was floored twice and the fight was extremely close, but Freitas finally broke through, rendering the scorecards meaningless with an exhilarating stoppage in the final round.

Immediately thereafter Freitas made the permanent move to lightweight, becoming a two-weight world champion when he bested long-time WBO titleholder Artur Grigorjan.

But seven months later Freitas would lose his unbeaten record to Diego Corrales, who dropped him in the eighth, ninth and 10th rounds before the champion decided he’d had enough.

Two routine wins followed before Freitas managed to regain his WBO 135-pound title by edging awkward U.S. Olympian Zahir Raheem for the vacant belt.

That victory set up a unification match with WBA titleholder Juan Diaz in April 2007, but Freitas was no longer the fighter he once was. The younger, fresher Texan forced an eighth-round corner retirement and Freitas walked away from the sport.

He moved into politics in 2011 and worked as a legislator for his home state for four years. Whilst in office Freitas decided to fight again, admittedly at a lower level, before walking away again. He has since fought twice more but insists he won’t compete again. His record stands at (41-2, 34 KOs).

“I decided to fight again because I love boxing,” Freitas said. “Also (I wanted) to spread the sport more here in Brazil. The retirement was official, it was the last fight.”

There were three more fights Freitas would have liked during his career.

“I wanted a rematch with Corrales and Corrales said no,” recalled the former champion. “I wanted to fight [Manny] Pacquiao and [Floyd] Mayweather.”

However, despite those opportunities getting away, the Brazilian fan-favorite is very happy with his achievements in boxing.

“My three biggest idols are Pele, Neymar and Mike Tyson,” said Freitas. “All of them came to meet me instead of me going to meet them. Millions of people watched my fights.”

Freitas, now 43, is divorced with six children. He remains very popular in his homeland and took part in a reality show.

“I just have a great family and live off of what boxing has given me and that’s a great life,” said the ex-champ proudly.

Freitas graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.

Juan Diaz:
Diaz’s jab was faster, my timing was out.

Peter Buckley:
He defended well with his hands and stopped my shots landing directly all the time. That made it difficult.

Diego Corrales:
He was the one who knocked me down with powerful and fast punches.

He was very strong and knew how to move very well. He gave me a technical knockout loss. He had good movement and fast punches.

Alfred Kotey:
He broke my knockout streak. I’ve never seen a fighter who could take so many punches in my life.

Joel Casamayor:
Smart and dirty. He was a very strong and intelligent southpaw.

Took a lot of punishment. The physical preparation helped him a lot in the 10 rounds. I say he’s the toughest, he took a lot of punches. He endured what many of my 34 opponents [up to that point] could not stand.

He had heavy hands. He was a super fighter; fast, good moves, his punches were painful and his speed made him very difficult. I classified him the best puncher because he was the only one who gave me a TKO loss.

He was smart, strong and very intelligent. He knew how to use his skills against me and had great leg movement. A fight that I will remember forever.

Best agility, fast southpaw and very intelligent. The fight with Casamayor was a very tough fight and very important for me; the unification of the WBA and WBO titles. Casamayor was a super fighter, he was very fast, but I showed that I was well-prepared.

Marc Abrams and Patrick Nascimento helped co-ordinate and translate this feature. The Ring appreciates their assistance.


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright


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