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Ouma Delivers with TKO over Candelo,
Freitas Does No Wrong in Connecticut

Jan 5, 2003:  Ringside Report By Alex Pierpaoli
Photos © Brendan Pierpaoli, Doghouse Boxing

Although it may have sounded like Sao Paolo or Bahia, the hometown of Brazilian junior lightweight Acelino “Popo” Freitas, Connecticut’s Foxwoods Casino played host to a raucous sellout crowd Saturday night as Popo claimed the WBO 135 pound lightweight title, defeating Artur Grigorian by twelve round unanimous decision. Having recently reconciled with his lovely wife, who was present at ringside, Freitas fought with focused aggression and looked better than he did in August in his life and death struggle with Argentina’s Jorge Barrios. In Grigorian, Freitas was faced with an opponent who was more crafty than explosive and more awkward than unpredictable, and the European southpaw made for a far less dangerous opponent than the likes of Barrios.

Freitas’ lunging awkward style delighted the vocal Brazilians who crowded the Connecticut casino’s Fox Theater. Haymakers thrown from the outside kept Grigorian on the defensive at times, except when he was able to counter Freitas and snap his head back with straight punches. The amateurish and wild swinging Freitas took an attacking posture for much of the rounds only to switch to a fleeing and slipping imitation of Derrick Gainer or Hector Camacho Jr. when Grigorian pressed forward. Oddly, Freitas seemed extremely wary of whatever power Grigorian carried in his fists despite his reputation as a clever southpaw and not as a puncher.

Freitas, whose early career consisted of highlight reel quality knockouts, was able to stun Grigorian on numerous occasions and scored a total of four knockdowns in the bout despite a couple which appeared more like shoves than actual scoring punches. Unwilling to rumble in close or plant his feet and trade, Freitas was rarely in position to throw more than one wild bomb at a time and was never able to follow-up and finish Grigorian when he had him stunned.

Referee Eddie Cotton took a point from Freitas in round ten for a blow that landed below Grigorian’s waistline after the Brazilian had been warned for several infractions including blows to the back of Grigorian’s head. After twelve rounds the judges were unanimous in tabbing Freitas the winner by two scores of 116-107, and a third of 115-108.

Whether Freitas intends to fight a Casamayor, Mayweather, Lazcano, or Corrales remains unanswered, but what is certain is that Brazilian fans will treat him and his wife like royalty for which there is really no comparison in US society. Even the most wanton Shaquille O’Neil fans don’t bring musical instruments, flags and pocket-sized cameras to Shaq’s games in hopes of catching a still of their hero or posing with their arm around his wife.

Much of Freitas unappealing style comes from a nervous caution he seems to have about getting hit. He has difficulty putting combinations together when he is so conscious of trying to avoid a potential counterpunch. He is careful to stay out of the way of punches without having the balance or fluidity of foot to make it look impressive and the result is an awkward, frenetic mixture of lunging, stumbling and wild-swinging.

On Saturday night, while pretty Brazilian girls snapped photos of the handsome Popo Freitas, his newly acquired belt around his waist and curly chestnut hair framing his smiling face, it occurred to this writer that beauty doesn’t bruise well. Freitas knows this, and so he leans precariously backwards or lunges underneath in hopes of getting away from damaging punches and meanwhile we wait for him to accept a challenge in this greatest of contact sports.

In the co-featured bout, top ranked junior middleweights J.C. Candelo and Kassim “The Dream” Ouma fought it out in a 12 round eliminator to determine the mandatory challenger for IBF Champion Winky Wright’s title. Despite much pre-fight trash-talking Ouma and Candelo battled away for nine rounds of exciting foul-free action before Ouma connected with a hard straight right hand that put Candelo down with a few seconds to go in the ninth. Unable to fully recover during the rest period, Candelo met Ouma for round ten and was driven back into a neutral corner where a flurry of blows brought Ref. Mike Ortega in to pull Ouma away from Candelo who slumped to the canvas at 15 seconds of round number ten.

Both fighters set a fast pace at the opening bell with Ouma pressuring and showing little respect for the long power punches of the taller Candelo. Ouma’s upper body movement and southpaw style made him elusive enough to pose problems for Candelo who was unable to prevent Ouma from coming in close and stealing punching room from him.

By round seven, Ouma’s right hooks and southpaw one-two were getting to Candelo and as he went to his corner there was a slow sponginess in his legs while Ouma was clowning and confident. In the eighth, Ouma took control and boxed beautifully; firing straight left hand leads then the right hook while rolling right to make Candelo miss.

When Referee Mike Ortega called a halt to the bout Kassim Ouma climbed the ring ropes in celebration. Smiling wide and pumping his fists in the air Ouma was lifted up by his trainers and finally “The Dream” seemed a long way from his internment as a child in the Ugandan army or the suffering of being shot twice.

Ouma’s volume-punching offense was reminiscent of Manny Pacquiao’s two-fisted assault on Marco Antonio Barrera, and both young fighters prove that a busy offense is an effective offense. With the victory over Candelo, Ouma is poised to earn the biggest paycheck of his young career should he face the winner of the Sugar Shane Mosley-Winky Wright unification bout tentatively scheduled for this March.

In undercard bouts, Trenton, NJ’s Terrance Cathuen dominated Jermain Marks over twelve rounds to retain his regional NABF and NABA super lightweight titles. Cathuen dominated Marks, using his southpaw style to launch quick right hooks and jabs which raised welts around the eyes of Jermain Marks and kept him on the defensive throughout. Cathuen dropped Marks in the third but was unable to finish him and Marks’ durability kept him in the fight even after his chances at victory faded. The ruling of the judges was unanimous with scores of 118-110, 117-111, and 119-108. Marks falls to 9-2-2 with 6 kayos while Cathuen improves to 25-1 with 7 kayos.

The largest fighters in the ring Saturday were light heavies Danny Batchelder and Brazil’s Laudelino Barros. Their 12 round contest ended in a close split decision victory for Danny Batchelder which was unpopular with the pro-Brazil crowd and in disagreement with the Doghouse scorecard which saw the fight 117-111 for Barros. Despite several close rounds Barros landed the heavier blows throughout and while Batchelder came on in the late rounds it was too little too late in this writer’s opinion. The official judges saw the fight at 116-112 twice for Batchelder against a single scorecard of 115-113 for the previously undefeated Brazilian. Barros drops to 17-1(16) and Batchelder’s record goes to 21-1-1(11).

In a spirited junior welterweight bout, Antonio Ramirez suffered a DQ loss at 1:43 of the sixth round when referee Joe Cusano disqualified him for reaching around and over him to continue striking his opponent Juliano Ramos while the referee was still in the process of delivery the mandatory 8 count. Ramirez, who had just scored a knockdown and was seconds away from winning by kayo, let his zealousness for a knockout get out of control and he forced the referee to penalize him due to the severity of the foul. Up to the point of the stoppage Ramos had been winning rounds on the strength of Freitas-style haymakers while Ramirez had been able to weather most of the hard punches and had turned the tide of the bout when he hurt Ramos in the sixth. The Brazilian crowd, that was never quieter than the seconds before Ramirez got himself disqualified, erupted in celebration as the concussed Ramos was helped to his feet and his arms were raised in victory. While Ramirez’ corner argued passionately with Ref. Cusano over their fighter’s disqualification, the crowd’s chants proved that to them at least, a win is a win. Ramos remains unbeaten at 13-0(11) while Ramirez falls to 20-8-6(15).

In featherweight action Brazil’s undefeated Valdemir Pereira scored an impressive knockout over durable Philadelphia fighter, Rogers Mtagwa. Mtagwa who was down in rounds one and six was dropped by a huge overhand right in the eighth which almost sent him end over end into his corner. The contest was stopped without a count just as it became clear the gutsy Mtagwa had every intention of getting up from the knockdown. With the victory, Pereira continues his unbeaten streak and runs his record to 15-0(12) and Mtagwa drops to 16-8-2(12).

Alex Pierpaoli has followed the Sweet Science for the past 17 years and is an avid boxing fan/writer. He has a degree in English from the University of Maine. Send comments or questions to:

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