According to any governing body in boxing without a financial bias towards a particular fighter, Acelino ‘Popo’ Freitas is The Man at 135 pounds. With all due respect to IBF champ Juan Diaz, off his recent breakdown of Lakva Sim, and Jose Luis Castillo, who beat Juan Lazcano for the WBC trinket, until someone knocks the chip of Freitas’ undefeated shoulder, Popo rules.
This Saturday, two-division yo-yo Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales challenges Freitas for the right to call himself The Best Lightweight in the world. Corrales has bumped and jumped around the 130 and 135 pound divisions since hearing the first bell to start his career. At 6’ tall and squeezing into the lightweight division limit, Corrales always holds a major advantage in height. There just aren’t many - make that “any” - guys walking around that tall at that weight. On Saturday he will be standing 5-6 inches above Freitas.
What has been a problem for Corrales is that he really does have to squeeze into his skin to tilt the scales under 130 for a Super Featherweight Title. While he managed to do that in his most recent bout as he avenged a loss to Joel Casamayor, it is the general consensus that it isn’t a healthy thing to do. This weekend Chico will have an extra 5 pounds to play with as he puts the WBO and IBA Super Feather titles aside for the opportunity to meet Freitas on Showtime. But will it be enough?
Similar to Corrales, Popo Freitas burst onto the scene by knocking out anyone and everyone he met. More recently he has developed more into a boxer, but the power to end a fight in the blink of an eye still remains. So don’t blink.
The Brazilian from Bahia will enter the ring Saturday with an undefeated mark of 35 wins and has heard the final bell just 4 times in a career that started in 1995 with a first round knockout. Nine years and 31 KO victories later, Freitas has a career defining fight on his hands. To date, his toughest opponent has been the undefeated (at the time) Joel Casamayor. Freitas took a unanimous decision as all three judges turned in 114-112 scores. Corrales split two bouts with Casamayor but was dropped three times in those two fights.
Combined these two fighters have knocked out 62 opponents in a total of 73 bouts and each has been accused of lacking attention to defense. The Achilles Heel for both is a penchant for touching the canvas, but it is worth noting that while Freitas has been down, he has never really been hurt. Corrales was dropped and hurt by Floyd Mayweather, and his corner mercifully stopped the beating before Chico could be knocked down a half dozen times. They stopped at five knockdowns, but Corrales has the heart that wanted to come back for more.
Neither boxer has faced anyone who hits as hard as his opponent will this weekend. So what happens? The answer may come down to physics.
An object traveling in straight line – Freitas’ widow-maker right hand – lands faster that an object moving in a curving manner – Corrales’ vaunted left hook. If Freitas gets there first he has the one punch power to turn the lights out. When Corrales lands his left, it takes a few for the power to accumulate. The beauty here is that Corrales has been down three times in his last two fights, while Freitas has been dropped twice in his past two.
One thing is certain, this fight features two of the biggest hitters in the sport and Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales has the size advantage and power to make his mark all over Freitas. That is much easier said than done, and until it happens, Popo is The Man.