31.12.03 – Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime – SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will commence an exciting year of boxing on Saturday, Jan. 3, at 11 p.m. ET/PT as WBO/WBA 130-Pound Champion Acelino Freitas (34-0, 31 KOs) steps up in weight to challenge WBO Lightweight Champion “King” Artur Grigorian (36-0, 22 KOs). The co-feature from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., will pit Kassim Ouma (18-1-1, 12 KOs) against Juan Carlos Candelo (26-5-3, 18 KOs) in a 12-round IBF 154-pound elimination bout. Banner Promotions will promote the doubleheader.
Question: Artur, how are you doing and what are your thoughts about this fight and defending against Acelino Freitas? Grigorian: I have a good opponent, but I am lightweight champion of the world and I have to show that I am the real lightweight champion and I want to stay it.
Question: Acelino, how is training going and what are your thoughts on this fight and moving up in weight for the first time, up a notch from 130 to 135.
Freitas: I have been concentrating on this fight for three months, two in the United States. We all know that Artur Grigorian is a great champion. We are definitely getting ready for him and, God willing, it is going to be another victory.
Question: Artur, you are one of boxing’s longest reigning champions with 17 title defenses. What are your thoughts about fighting in America for the first time and being able to get the kind of exposure you are going to get fighting in America on SHOWTIME this Saturday.
Grigorian: The publicity is important to him, but the most important thing is the opponent and he is prepared for the opponent and he is not fighting against the public. He is fighting against the opponent. So he’s thinking about his opponent and not about the public.
Question: Acelino, how do you feel about finally moving up in weight and have you detected any kind of a change? Do you feel stronger about the fact that you are fighting at 135 pounds?
Freitas: Well, basically, the people that know me know that the majority of my fights have been as a lightweight. Out of the 34 fights I have had, 21 of them were as a 135-pounder. And 15 of them ended by knockout. So basically I am going back to my natural weight. I am ready to go. I am still the champion at 130 pounds, you know, and right after this fight, regardless of what happens, I will decide what I am going to do. But I do feel stronger and more comfortable in this weight division.
Question: Acelino, do you feel any different or is it unusual for you to be going into a fight as a challenger?
Freitas: Well, basically, no. It does not feel different. Like I said, I am still the champ at 130 pounds and will enter the ring as if I was defending my championship. So, no, I do not feel like I am an opponent (challenger). I feel like I am going in to defend my championship.
Question: Artur, you have been the WBO junior lightweight champion since Oscar De La Hoya held that title back in ’95 and have made so many title defenses during an age when there have been so many great, dominant champs. Why have you remained on top for so long? What has been the secret to your success?
Grigorian: You have to decide why I have been so long the champion. Probably because I am too strong for the rest of the world.
Question: Acelino, since the inception of the junior lightweight divisions, only seven junior lightweight champions have moved up in weight and won the lightweight title. Why do you feel this there is such a big difference in five pounds for other champions and why that will not be a problem for you?
Freitas: Basically, the difference is that I am moving up to my natural weight. As I mentioned before, the first fight I won was in the lightweight division. So that is a critical part of it. Artur Grigorian may be the strongest guy in that division but maybe that is because he never left his country to come and fight over here (in the United States) and fight someone of his caliber.
Question: Artur, how difficult is it for you to train during the holiday season – Christmas and New Year’s coming up in a couple of days. Wouldn’t you like to be with your family and enjoying some holiday meals and that sort of thing. Does it give you added motivation that you have to train through holiday time?
Grigorian: I have to box on Jan. 3. The day after, I will have a party with my family. I look at this as a normal fight. My family is behind me. I got to spend Christmas time with them so I am just missing New Year’s. I will celebrate the new year with them when I get back. There is no difference in my motivation. It is the same I have for every fight. The desire I have to win this fight is the same as any other fight for me.
Question: Acelino, is it difficult for you to be training and working during the holiday season? Does it provide you with additional motivation?
Freitas: Well, you know, Christmas is every year and it happened to us already when I fought Joel Casamayor early last year. And, thank God, it was another victory. Hopefully, it will be the same kind of result for me this time around.
Question: Artur, you have not fought in about a year and that last fight of yours last January ended in a majority decision. Can you tell us a little bit about that fight and why it has been so long since you have fought?
Grigorian: After the last fight, I injured a shoulder and had to have an operation. So I had to take a little while off to recoup. That is the main reason why I have had so much time off between fights.
Question: So, Artur, despite coming off a layoff, and an operation, you still feel confident that you will do well against a very difficult opponent in this fight?
Grigorian: Yes, I feel very good going into this fight and I very confident.
Question: Artur, you have had such a great career in Europe. How do you feel about fighting in the United States for the first time and how important is this fight to you?
Grigorian: It is not important where the fight starts. I have fought on the road before. Once, I fought in Hungary in a stadium of 25,000 people, and they were all against me. Yet, I still won the fight. So it makes no difference to me where I box. Whether I am fighting in Europe or in the United States, every fight is important to my career.
Question: Acelino, you have had such great support in Brazil from the fans in your homeland. How does that make you feel and how does that help you in your career being one of the best?
Freitas: Well, I have always got that kind of support there. There were 45,000-50,000 people the last time I fought in Brazil. But the most important thing on the night of the fight is what happens in the ring. On Saturday, it will only be me and Grigorian in there, so I know that I will have to be more than ready. My fans everywhere have always given me tremendous support, but my focus now is on the fight. I want to get it right and get it over with one more victory.
Question: Artur, can you tell us a little about your childhood and what kind of a life you had growing up?
Grigorian: I was born in 1967 in Uzbekistan. My family did not have a lot of money. We were very poor so I started to box. I was 11-years-old when I started. But when I first started to box, it had nothing to do with money or anything. Now, it has to do with money, but before then not. It is a sport that I liked growing up and it is a sport that I still like.
Question: Acelino, how do you think you rank among your country’s all-time most popular athletes?
Freitas: Everyone can have a different sport and there have been many great Brazilian athletes in other sports. So let the people rank us.
Question: Artur, at 36 have you given much thought to how much longer you will stay in the sport?
Grigorian: Two or three years.
Question: Artur, although you are not looking past Freitas, is there anyone in particular that you would like to fight before those two or three years are up?
Grigorian: First of all, Freitas, and then we have to see.
Question: Acelino, what did you learn from your last fight?
Freitas: I learned a lot. But I also showed the world that I could not only knock out people in the first ad second rounds but the 11th and 12th too. That is what a true champion is.
Question: Acelino, when a fighter moves up in weight, they usually lose their punching power. Do you think that will be the case with you?
Freitas: No, because I am not moving up in weight. I am going back to my natural weight.
Question: Artur, you defeated Shane Mosley in your distinguished amateur career. Were there any other notable fighters that you beat?
Grigorian: In the final of the Goodwill Games, I beat Julio Gonzalez from Cuba.
Question: Artur, did you ever fight Kostya Tszyu in the amateurs?
Grigorian: I boxed him once, and lost.
Question: Artur, do you consider yourself the real lightweight champion of the world or do you consider yourself one of the lightweight champions?
Grigorian: This is a question which is a little bit difficult to answer. I will say I am willing to fight any of the other champions. I will be prepared for anybody. I am 36. I would appreciate a fight against everyone.
Question: Acelino, do you plan to stay in the junior lightweight Division or the lightweight division after the fight.
Freitas: Well, basically, after the fight, I am going to decide what I am going to do. I have 30 days to make a decision.
Question: Acelino, you have already mentioned that it has been easier physically for you to train for this fight but how has it been mentally since you had to deal with the death of your father and a divorce before your last two fights?
Freitas: Physically, I am fine. Mentally, too. I am back with my wife. We have worked things out and thank God for that and everything is in order.
Question: Acelino, if you win and stay at junior lightweight, do you think you will fight Joel Casamayor again – if Casamayor defeats Diego Corrales in their rematch.
Freitas: Well, it is definitely my call if I want to give him a rematch. But if you were a fighter, would you want to fight again against a guy like Casamayor, who likes to hit with the head, elbows, shoulder and everything. Would you fight a guy like that and risk your career with a fighter that is not a clean fighter? He is such a dirty fighter.
Question: So you are leaning against fighting him again for those reasons?
Freitas: Well, exactly. That is one reason. I am not avoiding Casamayor, but just basically showing the world that if he was a clean fighter and a decent man, you know, not the type that is always talking nonsense and disrespecting me and my family then it might be a different story. If you saw his last fight, you know the first thing he did was cut Corrales and then look at him, “Did I cut you?” You know what I am saying? People that know boxing know that he did that intentionally. He did it to me, he has done it to a whole bunch of guys. And those are his intentions.
Question: Acelino, what is your prediction?
Freitas: It is not going to end before distance.
Question: Artur, what is your prediction?
Grigorian: I am concentrating on going 12 rounds, but I do not think it will go. And with boxing, anything can happen, so I can tell you after the first round.