04.08.04 – On the same night SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING will air a replay of Danny Williams’ stunning fourth-round knockout over Mike Tyson, 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 (35-0, 31 KOs) will put his undefeated record and WBO lightweight crown on the line against WBO Junior Lightweight Champion Diego Corrales (38-2, 31 KOs) Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004, at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on West Coast) on SHOWTIME.
Freitas: Like usual, you have to go through pain, you have to go through stress, as in every other training camp, but it pays in the long run with a victory.
Suarez: Popo gets better every time we get ready for a fight. Popo is a great learner and a good student and each training camp is excellent. When you see a world champion, as Popo is, remain as hungry as he is, well, he is just a pleasure to work with.
Corrales: Camp has been perfect. We have worked extremely, extremely hard and I am excited. I am happy to be as close to it now and ready to get this fight started and underway.
Question: Do you think this has the potential to add up to a legendary match-up this weekend?
Corrales: I believe it can. The potential is always there; you have two of the biggest punchers in the world matching up. Both of us are young, both of us are at the height of our career.
Freitas: Definitely, it should be (a great fight). Knowing that it is one of the biggest fights, of course, we train hard and it definitely will be one of the best fights for history.
Question: Acelino, with an opponent like Diego, do you have to concentrate more and be even more disciplined while preparing in training camp?
Freitas: I definitely trained hard for this fight knowing that it is one of my most important fights. Even before, I trained five days a week. For this one, we trained six days a week.
Question: Diego, do you feel like you have to make this, as people are advertising it, a fight of the year candidate?
Corrales: I do not feel any pressure to make it anything it is not going to be. I have a job to do, I have a game plan and I am going to stick to my job and my game plan the entire night. If it goes to a war, which I believe it more than likely will at some point, or turn into a bit of a battle, then that is what we have.
Question: Diego, what is the shootout that stands out most in your career?
Corrales: The first (Joel) Casamayor definitely stands out. That was just getting to its finest parts and we were just getting to the meat and potatoes of the whole matter. That was fun. That was definitely a mental challenge and I love a mental challenge.
Question: Even though it hurts more, is it a more fun to just stand there and trade with a guy or would you rather stick and move and try to box?
Corrales: I love to box, but I always want to see myself at some point just challenge myself, challenge my heart, challenge everything. It has always been nice when you have to bring out your best and it is not the skill, nor the strength, nor any of those attributes that you can work on, that you need to have. But, yeah, it hurts. It hurts the next day.
Question: Diego, how much will your advantage in height play into the fight and into your strategy?
Corrales: It will play a lot into our strategy and will play a lot into the fight because having a guy my size, it is an awkward thing as far as Acelino goes because he is so short. I am sure he has never seen or even been in a ring with a six-footer before. But that will make it a little awkward, but it definitely seems like an advantage, something we work with.
Question: Diego, does that mean that you may want to stay on the outside a little bit? A toe-to-toe war would kind of negate that advantage a little bit.
Corrales: Obviously, it is part of my game plan, but at some point, you want to be able to control (the pace and go) in and out. We want to be able to dictate pace, and in order to dictate pace, you have to control the outside as well as the inside. Keeping fists at arm’s length and having the ability to work inside when they get close, so you have to control both. It would negate a little bit, but it also keeps control of the tempo and the pace.
Question: Chico, do you have any worries of fighting in a hostile or pro-Freitas crowd?
Corrales: No, not at all. Bottom line is I fight very few fights at home in Sacramento and I fight a lot of fights. .
Question: Popo, how do you plan on opposing Chico’s height advantage?
Freitas: Basically, the way we train, we train for a tall guy like Chico. It will not make a difference. I will see him as a person with two hands and two legs as my same height.
Question: Chico, you were really effective with your jab in the Casamayor fight and it was the kind of a tool a lot of people had always wanted you to bring to your game. How did Joe Goossen get you to finally put that into your arsenal and use it?
Corrales: We worked on it all the time. Other than that, a good coach spends time drilling that home and drilling anything else he wants to have done home. That is something that Joe did.
Question: Acelino, did you notice the use of Chico’s jab in the rematch with Casamayor and does that affect your strategy for how you want to approach and attack him?
Freitas: Basically, our strategy is to work. We are ready for anything and everything that Diego will bring to the ring. When we focus on strategy, it is not (just) strength. It is more intelligence.
Question: Acelino, you have been a world champion since 1999 and you have so much fame and wealth, what keeps you hungry and motivated to keep taking these types of fights?
Freitas: Basically, it is all about having the right people around you and the support of your wife and your family and knowing that this is what you like to do in life and putting God before anything. God gives me the strength and that is my motivation.
Question: Aside from Casamayor, a lot of people have criticized Popo’s opponents the last few years. Do you feel that taking on Corrales, who everyone believes to be an even more dangerous opponent than Casamayor, will quiet them down?
Suarez: Definitely. The reason we took the fight is I feel Popo has not got the right recognition. And I believe that Diego is one of the best in the division. I believe that this fight is going to make the winner, pound for pound, tops in the division, best in the world. That is the reason we decided to fight Diego, to prove to the world and prove to all the critics that Acelino is not ducking anybody. This is a fight that is going to make you, or break them.
Question: How important is it for both of you to be recognized as best pound-for-pound?
Corrales: It is not important at all. That is not what I am here to do. I am here to make my mark for the future and the long haul. I want people to sit back and look at me the same way they look at Tommy Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. They are legends. So the pound for pound rating does not mean anything to me. If it comes, great. But it is not a big deal to me.
Freitas: Basically, it does not mean anything to him either. Basically, what is more important for me is to keep who he is, the humble person that he is, the man that has the family behind him. What is most important to him is to keep what he has maintained up to today, is being the man that he is today and the fighter that he is today.
Question: Diego, how has going up in weight for this fight affected you? Do you expect more power or do you think that there are going to be any problems going up in weight?
Corrales: No, I have been perfect. I am six foot tall. I can carry that weight, no problem. It just gives me the ability to do some other things in my camp. I am able to do a little bit more with my weight training and a little bit more with my diet. It just benefited me a lot more. I think that the move was a great move and long overdue.
Question: What weight do you think you are going to weight on fight night?
Corrales: I have no clue or idea. I have been in camp so long that it should not go up too much more than 10 pounds. I try to keep it within a 10-pound range, and I think it will.
Question: Is this the kind of fight that as fighters, young and hungry, you dream of?
Corrales: Yeah, I love being in the big bands. I think it is the most fun thing in the world to be in the big show. I always like this.
Freitas: Yes, there is definitely interest in the fight that comes. (I) just cannot wait.
Question: Both of you are the best punchers out there. Is there anybody that can take your best shot and who do you think has more power, you or him?
Corrales: People get up (from knockdowns). That is all in the heart. If you have the heart to get up and do it, you can get up from any shot. Yeah, I think I am probably the bigger puncher, but we are going to find out come Saturday.
Freitas: Saturday, I will show who the bigger puncher is.
Question: Acelino, you must have an opinion as to who is the bigger puncher – you or Chico.
Freitas: I definitely believe that Diego has a great quality and that is why he is where he is at today. He possesses big punching power definitely. We are going to give Diego the respect that he deserves to have as a man and as a person. In the ring, it is a different story. Saturday, you will see who the best puncher is.
Question: Acelino, do you think anybody can take your best shot and then get up?
Suarez: Chico has all the qualities and has proved himself in the world boxing. He has been hit before and got up. He is a true warrior and champion and that is why we respect him a lot. Chico is the true warrior in boxing today. When he talks and says that it is fun getting hurt like, he is not saying that just to say it. Chico could take anybody’s shot as well as Acelino.
Question: Diego, do you see this as a career-defining fight for you?
Corrales: Yes. You have to have fights like these. You have to have them along the way. This is the third one I have had. I fought (Floyd) Mayweather and the two fights with Casamayor. Now it is me and Freitas, so you have to continually have these. Freitas is the same way. He had one with Casamayor and he is having one with me. These are all those key moments to defining your career and where it ends up, how it is looked upon by the public, by the fans, by the media, by everybody.
Question: Chico, what do you think the fans say about you as a fighter?
Corrales: Well, I think they enjoy my size. I think the fans talk about the heart that I have, the will to take anything and to keep on trucking. I think that is one of the things that a lot of the fans admire and really enjoy seeing. That is why they enjoy watching.
Question: Acelino, do you see this as a career-defining fight?
Freitas: Definitely. That is why we did all the research to win this fight.
Question: Acelino, what have been the most memorable fights for you to this point?
Freitas: Basically, the first title that I won and that, coincidentally, came five years to the day that I am going to fight Corrales. That day will be five years me rating as a world champion. That is basically one of them. Retaining the championship will be uplifting.
Question: Diego, what is it that you like about boxing?
Corrales: I love everything about it – the mental aspects of it, the discipline factors. You have to be self-motivated. Unlike football and basketball and even baseball, you do not have a team to motivate you to work hard or to run hard or to do anything. When you are down, you are down. It is just you that is down and you have to find ways to pull yourself together, to compose yourself. I think those are some of the best things that I think are overlooked by a lot by people that do not really know the sport. You just have to ask so much from yourself as an individual, as a person, and just the mental motivation that it really takes to do some of these things. It is unbelievable. I love it.
Question: Acelino, in your country everything is soccer and maybe some car racing. Why do you think that your countrymen are so excited over you?
Freitas: I am very happy that God put me in a position to become a fighter. Brazil has got a lot of sponsorships for football and racing. But there are a lot of talented boxers in Brazil. It is a shame that there is not more help for those athletes that really need it to show their talent. I have been blessed in making it to where I am at today and I am very solid and very proud to be representing Brazil. But there are a lot of great, excellent fighters in Brazil.
Question: Diego, can you talk about training with Joe Goossen, what the difference is, how it helped your career?
Corrales: Joe is so much fun and this is a tough game just by itself. You do not need a real rigid, just “grind you to the bone” kind of training. You have got to have some lightheartedness and Joe is definitely one of those people who keeps things light and it is fun. Your mind is at ease. While you are working hard, he just makes it nice and easy. The other good thing is he is a very, very family motivated man and that makes it real easy because you do not have people like that in this sport. I have my family and I am a family man. He is the same way. We have dinner at his house, his wife and his kids, every week and those are the pluses. That is what happens when you have a great relationship and good work rapport and we have a good work rapport and a good relationship as friends in and out of the ring.
Question: Diego, it seems that your defense is a lot tighter now. Is that something Joe has been working with you?
Corrales: Yeah, our defense is something that we have worked on. I have taken a great deal of mental work on that. It has taken a lot to work on it, but I really locked myself into it. I think it is really important.
Question: Acelino, what does that great support in Brazil mean to you when you are training and walking into the ring and after you have won a fight?
Freitas: It feels great. I feel very happy and excited having the fans, and having people calling from all over. I believe that probably 80 percent of the people that are going to be there are Brazilian and from different places in the United States. As an individual, God has something special for each person and God only knows the difficulties that I have been going through all my life and I believe that I deserve to be in this position today. I am very happy to be here today.
Question: Acelino, would you elaborate about how there has not been enough support for boxing in Brazil?
Freitas: Basically, the structure they have in Brazil, they have excellent fighters going to the Olympics now. But they do not have any guarantee of bringing a medal home because the lack of training they have and the corrupt people that are behind the professionals. Being a part of that, I have experience with the people there and what they did to me in the pros. Also there are problems getting visas for fighters to come to the States and they have to fight so hard just to get one. I have three good fighters that could probably be good in the professionals, but bringing them over and getting someone that could work with their career is hard. I have a kid right now that is 3-0, three knockouts, and he has been fighting in the States. But the only way I could bring him over here was to say I would be responsible for him. That is the only way to get them the opportunity to come and fight in the States.
Question: Diego, would like to have a rubber match with Casamayor, and Acelino, would you consider having a second fight with Casamayor.
Corrales: I would. As soon as he learns his respect and bring something to the table. I do not have a problem with doing it. But the stupid stuff he pulls and the antics he has, it does not make anything easier for himself.
Suarez: Acelino will definitely give him a rematch but only in Brazil with Brazilian judges and with a Brazilian referee, and a couple of doctors in each corner. That is the only way we would give him a rematch. Like Acelino said before, “I do not want to put my health to risk.” Obviously, what he did to Diego was purposeful, what he did in his last fight was purposeful. It is a shame because he does not need to do that. He has got so much talent that he does not need to be doing things like that. Like Diego said before, that is adding to his reputation and it is a shame. It is a waste of talent.
End Press Questions. Closing comments.
Freitas: God bless you all, especially Diego and his family and I want to personally thank Diego for the opportunity to take the fight. This way we can prove to the world who will be the best the night of the fight and may the Lord bless both men and hopes everything comes out OK.