30.04.06 – By Mike Indri – Retired Boxers Foundation – MASHANTUCKET, CT – At the fight’s opening bell it was obvious that Acelino “Popo” Freitas had something to prove, to himself, and to his fans. Filled with nervous energy, Freitas came out throwing wild, lunging punches. This should have made things a little easier for the usually sharp, precision punching, master boxer Zahir Raheem. Raheem, the WBO’s third ranked fighter, never fought like the accomplished fighter he is known to be and surely did not fight anywhere near the level of a fighter who had soundly defeated the legendary Erik Morales last September.
All this being said, tonight’s fight for the World Boxing Organization’s lightweight world championship title, which was televised live as the main event on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” series, was one ugly and sloppy fight. As the cheers erupted following the reading of the judge’s scores which declared Freitas the winner via split decision, one had to wonder if the crowd’s jubilation was for the fact that the Brazilian fighter had just won back his WBO title belt, or simply because this disappointing championship bout was officially over.
The early rounds were filled with Freitas looking to come forward and Raheem, for whatever reason, looking to clinch, grapple or hold. Both fighters were thrown to the canvas on more than one occasion. After throwing Freitas to the canvas again in round six, Raheem actually took a knee and apologized – fearing a penalty. Afterwards highly respected referee Steve Smoger stated “I gave him a hard warning and if this continued he would have been penalized.”
The middle rounds saw much of the same, very few clean shots landed by either fighter and very undisciplined work by two of the more professional and highly acclaimed fighters in boxing today. Although no legitimate knockdowns were registered by either boxer, the fighters made a combined total of nine trips to the canvas!
With each passing round, the opportunity (career-wise, and more importantly, money-wise) began fading away for the twenty-nine year old Raheem. This poor performance loss for the Philadelphia fighter will more than likely be his last appearance on HBO for quite some time, while the fortunes of Freitas (who only graded his own performance a “C+”) should turn much brighter.
The Foxwoods Resort Casino was packed to capacity, due to Freitas’ overwhelming popularity the fight card was moved from the smaller ballroom/arena to the much larger casino bingo hall. With the predominately Brazilian crowd ravenously rooting on their hero, “Popo” didn’t let them down and assumed control over the last two “championship rounds”, which sealed the victory for Freitas, who now desperately wants a rematch against his nemesis Diego Corrales. Corrales dethroned Freitas in August 2004 (via tenth round technical knockout), also at Foxwoods, and had refused the former champion the opportunity of a rematch.
The tension and anxiety filled the venue as judge Clark Sammartino’s scorecard (115-113 for Raheem) was announced, once judge’s Steve Weisfeld (115-113 for Freitas) and Glen Feldman’s (116-112 for Freitas) scores were given, declaring Freitas the WBO lightweight world champion once again, the Foxwood Casino’s bingo hall erupted in a frenzy of joy and adulation!
Congratulations to Acelino Freitas, always a champion, but now with the title belt to prove to his detractors that he has overcome the emotionally damaging Corrales defeat and is ready to move forward. While not a great fight, great fighters still find the way to win when not at their best – Acelino Freitas did just that tonight.
In the co-feature bout, 2004 US Olympic light heavyweight gold medallist Andre Ward, now fighting in the middleweight division, took on Andy Kolle, a scrappy college student fighting out of Fergus Falls, MN. After a close first round, the talented Olympian began landing more and methodically breaking down the gutsy, yet lesser skilled fighter. In rounds three and four Ward began landing more combinations and had Kolle’s face puffy and reddened. Towards the end of round five, Ward’s punches were landing cleanly and Kolle was taking major punishment from both hands. Fighting on a ton of heart and resilience, Kolle refused to stop coming forward and, as a result, was absorbing too many shots to the head and face, which were closing Kolle’s right eye and had his nose bleeding profusely. Despite complaints from the fighter, referee John Callas stopped the one-sided contest, on the advice of the doctor, refusing Kolle’s plea to continue.
“He (Ward) was just too quick and had fast hands,” stated the frustrated Kolle, now 9-1 (7 KO’s) adding “I couldn’t get off.”
An impressive display by Andre Ward, who remains perfect at 9-0 (5 KO’s).
The likeable fighter, from Oakland, CA., didn’t realize he would be fighting a southpaw. “I knew he couldn’t match my speed, but I also knew he was a tough cookie.”
On the non-televised HBO “Boxing After Dark” undercard:
Vincent Arroyo, fighting out of Amherst, NY, showed fast hands and a good, solid offensive attack in a four round jr. welterweight bout against an out-gunned John Lipscomb, to open the night’s show. Arroyo took the unanimous decision, 40-36, on all three judge’s scorecards and stayed perfect at 5-0 (3 KO’s). Lipscomb, travels back to Cleveland, Ohio at 2-2-1.
In the next four round battle of jr. welterweights, Carmelito DeJesus gave the many Brazilian fans on hand plenty to cheer about. The lanky DeJesus caught his opponent Darrell Crenshaw, from Philadelphia, with a very effective right hand too often, and Crenshaw (now 1-5-1) was unable to come out for round three. The Brazilian prospect improved to 4-0 (3 KO’s).
In the evening’s lone heavyweight bout, Alonzo “Big Zo” Butler bullied and simply overpowered his way to a fifth round knockout victory over a game Zach Page, now 10-7 (4 KO’s). Using a fifty three pound weight disparity to his advantage, Butler bludgeoned Page with his much stronger punches, dropping the smaller fighter in round two with a hurtful right to the head. Page had some moments when he was able to hit and run, but “Big Zo” finally caught up with Page for good in round five, first landing a big left hand which was ruled a knockdown as Page’s glove touched the canvas, and then crushing a right hand to the head of a trapped in the corner Page who was unable to get up after the powerfully built, 255 lb. Butler’s onslaught, with only seconds remaining in the stanza. Butler, a Chattanooga, TN. native, remained unbeaten at 22-0-1, with his 17th knockout.
The six round jr. welterweight bout between Luciano Silva, from Brazil, and Deon Nash, fighting out of Lutcher, LA. proved to be an exciting, hard fought, evenly matched contest between two good looking prospects. While Nash appeared quicker and displayed a nice, fluid boxing style, Silva had the more aggressive attack with the more substantial punch. Nash had Silva in some trouble in round five, as a nasty cut opened over the feisty Brazilian fighter’s left eye (due to an accidental head butt), but failed to capitalize and didn’t take advantage. Silva improved to 7-1 (4 KO’s), while Nash slipped to 5-2 (1 KO).