01.06.04 - SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will turn up the heat in August when it features two of boxing's finest pound-for-pound champions battling it out for the WBO 135-pound title. In one of the most eagerly anticipated match-ups of 2004, Acelino "Popo" Freitas will put his undefeated record and WBO lightweight crown on the line against WBO Junior Lightweight Champion Diego Corrales Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004, at 9 p.m. ET/PT* on SHOWTIME. Banner Promotions will present the event from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. A second televised bout will be announced soon.

Freitas will make his seventh SHOWTIME appearance while defending his WBO lightweight crown for the initial time. The Salvador, Brazil, native won the WBO 135-pound belt with a dominant 12-round unanimous decision over previously undefeated Artur Grigorian Jan. 3, 2004, on SHOWTIME. In the battle of unbeaten world champions, Freitas, then the WBO and WBA 130-pound titleholder, floored Grigorian four times and was in total control throughout while triumphing 116-107 twice and 115-108.

The popular, aggressive, hard-punching Freitas captured the WBO 130-pound title with an eighth-round TKO over Anatoly Alexandrov on Aug. 7, 1999. He added the WBA belt to his wardrobe by outpointing Joel Casamayor on Jan. 12, 2002. Freitas made three successful WBO/WBA title defenses, the last coming on an exciting 12th-round TKO over Jorge Rodrigo Barrios Aug. 9, 2003, on SHOWTIME.

The undefeated champion is recognized as Brazil's most significant title claimant in the past quarter century.

Freitas' fights have broken attendance records and generate the same kind of mania as a World Cup soccer game. More than 52,000 hometown fans turned out in Sao Paolo to watch the knockout artist destroy Anthony Martinez via second-round TKO in his first WBO title defense on Oct. 26, 1999. His wedding was nationally televised in Brazil and drew record ratings.

The critics all agree that Diego Corrales presents Freitas with his toughest challenge yet. Poised to end Freitas' nine-year string of victories, Corrales will move up in weight in an attempt to capture his third world title.

Perhaps the most feared pure puncher in the lighter weight classes, the lanky, popular Corrales fought a tactically brilliant fight against Casamayor in their rematch on March 6, 2004, and won the vacant 130-pound title with a 12-round split decision at Foxwoods. In addition to being the aggressor, Corrales showed the SHOWTIME audience that he could box well from the outside, and perform with poise and patience. The judges scored the contest 115-112 twice for Corrales and 114-113 for Casamayor.

Prior to his disputed sixth-round stoppage at the hands of Casamayor on Oct. 4, 2003, Corrales had won four consecutive fights by knockout. After capturing the IBF belt with a seventh-round TKO over Roberto Garcia on Oct. 23, 1999, on SHOWTIME and successfully defending it three times, Corrales lost a battle of unbeatens when World Boxing Council (WBC) titleholder Floyd Mayweather defeated him on Jan. 20, 2001.

Following a two-year ring absence, Corrales made a triumphant return by stopping Michael Davis on Jan. 25, 2003. The Sacramento Calif., native then needed only seven rounds to defeat his next three opponents over the course of four months.

During an outstanding amateur career, Corrales compiled a 105-12 record while capturing numerous titles, including the 1991 National P.A.L. Championship at 112 pounds and a bronze medal at the 1995 Pan Am Games in Argentina.

His greatest, earliest highlight, however, was earning a berth on the United States National team in 1993.

Corrales started boxing at age nine after getting into a series of scuffles in the Sacramento streets. His father strongly suggested he go to a boxing club.

"I will never forget the first Nationals I went to," Corrales said. "It was in Newark, N.J., and I went there with a guy who was director of P.A.L. in Sacramento. He was a police officer, who now works for the FBI. He took good care of me. I was a silver medalist (at 95 pounds) and won five fights. I think I fought every day. I lost a decision in the final, but I got a trophy -- they gave it to me for the Sportsman of the Tournament."

While growing up in Sacramento, Corrales lost loved family members to domestic violence and suicide. While in high school Corrales, who had been in a street gang since he was 13, witnessed the drive-by murder of his best friend. Then, after becoming a teenage father, he gave up boxing to take a job as a truck driver for Montgomery Ward and work as a line cook at Bennigans in Amarillo, Texas.

Unable to shake the fighting bug, he returned to the gym. He made his pro debut at age 18 on March 19, 1996, and registered a third-round TKO over Everett Berry. After winning two out of his initial four bouts by decision, Corrales reeled off 14 consecutive knockouts (June 1996 - October 1997), 12 of which lasted four rounds or less.

SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING's Steve Albert and Al Bernstein will call the action from ringside with Jim Gray serving as roving reporter. The executive producer of the SHOWTIME telecast will be Jay Larkin, with David Dinkins Jr. producing and Bob Dunphy directing.

For information on upcoming SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecasts, including complete fighter bios and records, related stories and more, please go the SHOWTIME website at

* Tape delayed on the West Coast

photos (c) Tom Casino/Showtime

Article posted on 01.06.2004

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