It’s good to be Freitas
BY MIKE HOUSER
It’s good to be king.
Just ask Acelino Freitas, who dethroned “King” Artur Grigorian for the WBO lightweight title Saturday in a Showtime-televised bout from Foxwoods Resort, in Mashantucket, Conn.
The only question facing Freitas, now 35-0, with 31 knockouts, is whether he should keep his crown in the barren 135-pound division, or return to defend his WBA-WBO 130-pound championship against the winner of the upcoming Joel Casamayor-Diego Corrales rematch.
WBC lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. has announced his intentions of vacating the 135-pound ranks and going after Cory Spinks, who upset Ricardo Mayorga for the welterweight championship. Leonard Dorin recently vacated his WBA lightweight title, and aside from Juan Lazcano and Jose Luis Castillo, who will probably meet for Mayweather’s vacated belt, this leaves only IBF titlist Javier Jauregui as a name lightweight opponent for the undefeated Brazilian.
Steve Farhood, former editor-in-chief for THE RING magazine and current boxing commentator and scribe for Showtime, sees a rosy future for Freitas at 135.
“I thought the fight with Grigorian was a great match for Freitas,” Farhood said. “(Grigorian) was an old guy (36), he just had surgery on his shoulder and he’d been out for a year. It was a no-lose situation, because Freitas could’ve gone back to 130 if he lost. When you say (what Freitas can do now), you’re really talking about his what his American promoter – Art Pellulo (Banner Promotions) – will do. And Pellulo enjoys extending his (WBO lightweight) title reign.”
Freitas looks to be able to make decent money for the least amount of risk by staying at 135. But the biggest money would be a rematch against Casamayor, should the Cuban beat Corrales again at 130. Freitas defeated Casamayor two years ago via 12-round unanimous decision, although some thought Freitas got a gift.
And there’s an even more attractive fight at 130 for Freitas.
“I’d love to see Freitas fight Erik Morales,” Farhood said. “That fight is in my top three. Another fight with Casamayor would be OK, but against Morales (should he get by WBC 130-pound titlist Jesus Chavez next month), it’d be a question of who lands a big right hand first.”
While Freitas knocked down Grigorian four times Saturday (at least two looked like pushdowns), at times Freitas looked a little vulnerable.
“I think Freitas is getting worse, not better, as he goes along,” said Jesse Reid, who has trained many world champions, including Orlando Canizales and Paul Spadafora. “He’s not getting the necessary information in the corner. He has all the tools – talent, heart, he can box – and he knows what it’s like to go without a meal. He can do a lot better than what he’s doing. Right now, if he gets too comfortable, he can get beat by someone he shouldn’t.”
Against Grigorian, Freitas lacked finesse and threw off-balance, looping punches.
“Freitas is talented and he has quick feet, but by some of the (punching) positions he’s getting in, he looked like a wild puncher, at times even amateurish,” Farhood said. “Now it’s hard to criticize an undefeated fighter like Freitas, but you’d think against a technically sound fighter, Freitas’ flaws would show. Of course he fought a technically sound fighter in Casamayor and he boxed great. But (Freitas) reminds me of (Prince Naseem) Hamed, whom Oscar Suarez (Freitas’ trainer) used to train.”
Hamed, it should be remembered, had 15 title defenses at featherweight before being humbled by the highly skilled Marco Antonio Barrera.
So far, though, it seems like Freitas knows against whom he can get away with slugging, and against whom he needs to box. And as long as he avoids stepping in with Mayweather, who is arguably the most talented boxer in the sport, Freitas has seemingly stumbled upon a gold mine in a lightweight division in flux.
Already an enormous star in Brazil (think of a male Britney Spears), where the American dollar goes far, all “Popo” needs to do is sit on his new belt while he pounds out what passes for sanctioning body contenders. The WBO has soon-to-be mandatory contenders like Yuri Romanov and Matt Zegan waiting in the wings. And then there’s Ivan Hernandez, Graham Earl and former WBA titlist Stefano Zoff, whom Freitas can fight between his mandatory defenses.
And should Freitas decide to make a few more bucks and unify, he can grant Jauregui a rematch. Freitas chilled Jauregui in one round back in his third title defense in March, 2000.
It’s sort of like speculating in the stock market. If Freitas wants a little more money at a little more risk, he can fight the winner between Miguel Callist and two-time WBA lightweight beltholder Julien Lorcy, who will square off for Dorin’s recently vacated WBA bauble.
The division’s top threats (should Mayweather follow through with his plan and move up) – Lazcano and former WBC titlist Castillo – can be had for yet more money and considerably more risk.
Freitas has even more options. He can wait for Casamayor, Corrales and Morales to fatten up five more pounds and meet them for a lot more money at 135. Or, should he decide to dispense with all caution and go for the biggest money at the most risk, Freitas can move up five more pounds to compete in the deepest division in boxing – the 140-pound ranks.
Born dirt-poor in Brazil, Freitas has earned with his fists the insight that is normally reserved for financially successful businessmen: It takes money to make money. And, if matched judiciously, Freitas can leverage his WBO lightweight crown into the kind of money that he used to only dream about.