Forgotten Classics: Acelino Freitas vs Jorge Barrios

Freitas vs Barrios

By: Steve Gallegos

Usually, when rival countries Brazil and Argentina go head to head, it’s on the soccer field; however one summer night in 2003, the eyes of both countries were focused on the prize ring when unbeaten AcelinoPopoFreitas of Brazil squared off with Argentina’s JorgeLa HienaBarrios.

Acelino Freitas was a fan favorite in the early 2000’s. He was an aggressive puncher who produced exciting KO’s and he was regarded by many as the best, pure puncher in boxing. He won the WBO Super Featherweight championship in 1999 with a first round KO of Anatoly Alexandrov. It was in his fourth defense of the title that the mainstream boxing public got their first look at “Popo“.

In June of 2000, he appeared on HBO’s short lived boxing program KO Nation and he was impressive in destroying Lemuel Nelson in two rounds. After that, he signed a huge contract with Showtime Networks. In January of 2002, Freitas unified the division when defeated WBA Jr. Lightweight champion Joel Casamayor by unanimous decision in what was a very close, competitive fight.

Before Sergio Martinez, Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysee, Jorge Barrios was the face of boxing in Argentina. He was a flashy, exciting fighter who loved to come forward and brawl. He was also a major star outside of the ring as he was an actor, a model and a singer. He had an impressive record of 39-1-1 going into the Freitas bout and he also picked up a few minor and regional title belts in the process; however he was virtually unknown outside of Argentina.

Freitas and Barrios met on 08/09/03 at the Miami Arena in Miami, FL for the WBA/WBO Super Featherweight titles. Barrios entered the ring sporting colorful soccer Attire to go along with a red doo rag and red sunglasses. He appeared loose, confident and determined to shine in his U.S. debut. Freitas came into the ring more reserved, more focused. It was a packed house full of Argentines and Brazilians waving their flags while cheering soccer style.

In the first round, Freitas came out using his jab and was trying to keep the fight on the outside where he had the advantage and he was doing well for the first half of the round, however this didn’t last long. The distance closed in the final minute of the round as both men exchanged punches, both to good effect. The best punch of the round came from Freitas who landed a good right uppercut that staggered Barrios.

The second round belonged to Barrios as he pressed forward, being the aggressor. He was able to get inside on Freitas and landed some good clubbing shots. Freitas came out in the third using his jab and was using it well to set up his hard right hand and began landing it at will. Freitas tagged Barrios with at least three hard right hand shots that would have knocked out many other opponents, however Barrios took them well and kept coming forward while landing some shots of his own.

The right hand shots from Freitas opened up two cuts. On on the bridge of Barrios‘ nose and another on the edge of the left eye. Freitas continued to box in the fourth round by using his left jab to set up his right and was doing fairly well, however Barrios was unphased and continued to press forward forcing the exchanges which provided some exciting action. Round five was fought at a much slower pace. Freitas stayed mostly on the outside, using his left jab to keep Barrios at bay and didn’t allow the him to get on the inside. Freitas had only fought four rounds in the last 12 months and he appeared to be pacing himself for the long haul.

Barrios continued to press forward in the sixth, trying to make the fight a brawl as he threw wild lunging punches, however they weren’t landing clean and Freitas was able to duck and slip. Freitas continued to use his jab, however he was hesitant to throw his right hand as it appeared to be hurt. At the beginning of the seventh, referee Jorge Alonso called the ringside doctor over to take a look at Barrios as he began to bleed slightly from the right ear. The doctor inspected it and determined he had a ruptured eardrum, however the fight could continue.

Freitas dominated most of the seventh round by using his jab to set up his right hand and he was using lateral movement to avoid exchanges. In the last 30 seconds of the round, Barrios closed the distance by forcing “Popo” against the ropes, roughing Freitas up as the round came to an end. Freitas dominated most of the eighth round in similar fashion. Barrios, with the blood pouring down his face, slowed down his attack somewhat and was looking to time Freitas. In the last 20 seconds of the round, Barrios landed a straight left that put Freitas down. Acelino immediately rose to his feet and nodded his head as if to say “Yeah, I got caught”. The tide had turned somewhat in favor of Barrios.

Barrios capiltalized on the knockdown in the eighth by fighting very impressively in the ninth as he remained the aggressor, pressing forward while landing some good shots. He looked as though he might be taking control of the fight as Freitas seemed to hold back in the ninth. Barrios came out in the 10th with blood pouring badly down the left side of his face and another cut had opened up over his right eye. Freitas started the 10th by greeting Barrios with a hard, straight right hand. Freitas began to stick and move while jabbing and landing his right hand, however Barrios showed his world class chin and kept coming forward, landing some good shots of his own. Barrios‘ left eye was bleeding badly and during a break by the referee, Barrios leaned over and wiped his eye on referee Jorge Alonso’s shirt.

In the 11th. both men stood on the outside looking to counter the other’s lead. Barrios began to jab effectively and then he landed a solid 1-2 left, right combination that put Freitas down again. This time Freitas was hurt and he took a few seconds to get up. The combination that put Freitas down, also knocked the mouth piece out and Freitas got a few extra seconds to let his head clear as the mouthpiece was put back in. Freitas, however was in trouble and Barrios moved in, trying to finish his man and during another break in the action, Barrios once again leaned over and wiped his cut on referee Jorge Alonso’s sleeve.

Barrios continued to stalk Freitas, however “Popo” stayed away and was able to clear his head. The fight that had many twists and turns, took a huge detour as Freitas landed a hard, straight right hand at the bell that buckled Barrios and put him down. Barrios wasn’t able to be saved by the bell, however he did get up. Freitas came out in the 12th and landed a hard right hand that buckled Barrios again and he followed it up with another hard right that put Barrios down again. Barrios once again showed heart by getting up, however he was in a daze. Barrios went down again due to a slip, however he was slow to get up and his legs were wobbling as he tried to get up, forcing referee Jorge Alonso to stop the fight.

It was an dramatic end to a very exciting fight that had many twists and turns. It was a hard fought victory for Freitas and it would be his last fight at 130 lbs. He moved up to lightweight for his next fight and outpoined Artur Grigorian by unanimous decision to win the WBO lightweight title. He would then lose the title and his first fight in August of 2004, when he was stopped by Diego Corrales in the 10th round. He would regain the WBO lightweight title a year and a half later when he decisioned 1996 U.S. Olympian Zahir Raheem. Freitas would however lose his title one year later in a lightweight title unification bout with Juan Diaz when “Popo” quit on his stool prior to the eighth round. He would remain inactive for five years and returned to the ring in June of 2012, scoring a ninth round KO over Michael Oliveira. He hasn’t fought since. His record as professional stands at 39-2 with 33 KO’s.

Barrios rebounded from this less fairly well. Two years and three wins later, Barrios won the WBO Super Featherweight title by scoring a fourth round TKO over Mike Anchondo, becoming Argentina’s first Super Featherweight titleholder. He would successfully defend his title only once before losing it via split decision to Joan Guzman in September of 2006. He would go 4-1 over the next four years. He hasn’t fought since 2010. Barrios‘ record stands at 50-4-2 with 35 KO’s. They were two fighters from rival countries who were as different as oil and water, however they mixed together very well to produce one of the “Forgotten Classics” of the last decade.

Freitas vs Barrios

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Hector Gabino/AFP/Getty Images (Acelino Freitas, (R), Jorge Barrios (L).

Forgotten Classics: Ray Mercer vs Tim Witherspoon

Mercer V Witherspoon

By: Steve Gallegos

For most boxers, there comes a time in their career where they have to fight that crucial fight, the “Crossroads” fight. When two fighters meet at the “Crossroads”, it becomes a do or die situation in which a victory is needed in order to stay in contention. When a fighter’s future is on the line, the “Crossroads” fight can produce a memorable classic. That was the case in 1996 when former heavyweight champions “MercilessRay Mercer and “TerribleTim Witherspoon did battle.

In 1996, the heavyweight division was going strong. You had superstars of the division such as Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson. You also had a new class of up and coming heavyweight prospects, such as Chris Byrd, David Tua and Hasim Rahman. You also had heavyweight veterans like Ray Mercer and Tim Witherspoon who were fighting to stay in the mix. Both Mercer and Witherspoon were likeable, fan friendly fighters who had their share of up’s and downs. They were two fighters in their mid-late 30’s who were hungry for another crack at a heavyweight title and big paydays.

In May of 1996, both men participated in a huge HBO heavyweight tripleheader from Madison Square Garden in New York City. The night began with Tim Witherspoon scoring an impressive fifth round TKO over Jorge Luis Gonzalez. Then Ray Mercer came out and gave former and future heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis one hell of a run for his money. Mercer overcame huge height and reach advantages to outbox Lewis in many exchanges with his new and improved jab. He would however, come up short, losing a very close, majority decision. After both men showed they still had a lot left to offer, Mercer and Witherspoon were then scheduled to face each other at the “Crossroads”.

Mercer and Witherspoon met on 12/14/96 at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ and it was the co-feature on a big TVKO Pay Per View card headlined by the Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota rematch. Round one was fought at a fast pace. Both men stood at close quarters throughout the round trying to establish a rhythm. Witherspoon focused mostly on the body as he landed many body shots. Mercer stood still, weathering the storm while establishing his straight, hard jab to good effect. Round two was a little more tactical as both men focused on the jab and both men would have success. Few hard punches were thrown; however both men exchanged hard right hands to end the round.

Round three was much of the same; however the edge so far belonged to Witherspoon, who was more active. Mercer was standing still for the most part, waiting for an opportunity to capitalize on a Witherspoon mistake. In round four, Mercer opened up and began to put together hard combinations. His left jab was used to good effect to set up hard right hand shots, particularly the right uppercut. Witherspoon still had his moments as he still focused to the body while landing his own jab; however it was Mercer’s round.

Witherspoon would respond with a huge rally in the fifth, in which he rocked Mercer twice with hard right hand shots. Mercer would rally back in the sixth, using his excellent left jab to setup his right hand. Mercer elected not to stand in front of Witherspoon in this round, which prevent Tim from landing body shots as he had done in the previous rounds. Both men exchanged hard shots early in round seventh; however the tactical edge was shifting in Mercer’s direction as he continued to use his left jab to setup his right hand shots.

Witherspoon’s punch output was beginning to drop as he was abandoning his jab which was also setting up his body attack. The Mercer rally would continue in the eighth as he was taking control of the fight going into the last two rounds. Round nine was fought at a very slow pace; however Witherspoon was starting to come on again and did enough to win the round. Both men knew the fight was on the table going into the 10th and both men came out aggressive throwing hard bombs early; however the it was Mercer who had the edge as he was the more aggressive fighter throughout the last part of the 10th round. It was a good, back and forth heavyweight battle that was left in the hands of the judges.

Despite the fight appearing to be very close, the judges didn’t see it that way. The scores were 97-93, 97-91, 97-93 all in favor of Ray Mercer by unanimous decision. It was a well deserved and much needed win for Mercer. Witherspoon felt he won the fight and said it was easy inside the ring and he was never hurt. Mercer, who had been on the bad end of some close decisions over the last couple years, finally caught a break. Andrew Golota, would pummel Riddick Bowe both legally and illegally in the main event, losing by disqualification due to repeated low blows. Despite the loss, Golota was the winner and a big money fight with Mercer was scheduled for the early part of 1997; however it was postponed and rescheduled due to a Golota injury and the fight was scrapped altogether due to Mercer having back surgery.

Mercer would be inactive for 14 months following the Witherspoon fight and would go 12-2 from 1998-2008. He would get a crack at a heavyweight title when he faced Wladimir Klitschko in 2002; however he would come up short losing a 6th round TKO in which he was stopped for the first time in his career. He would retire with a record of 36-7 with 26 KO’s.

Mercer would crossover into the world of Kickboxing and MMA. His record in Kickboxing was 0-2; however he would find success in an MMA ring by knocking out former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia with a right hand in eight seconds. Tim Witherspoon would fight on for another seven years going 10-8-1 with 8 KO’s. He would retire with a record of 55-13-1 with 38 KO’s. Mercer and Witherspoon were two very exciting and skilled heavyweights who were tailor made for each other and they fought one of the better heavyweight bouts in the latter part of the 1990’s. It’s the kind of fight you don’t see much of these days.

 

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Mercer V Witherspoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Classics: Jermain Taylor vs “Winky” Wright

wright-taylor

By: Steve Gallegos

In today’s boxing, we very rarely see the best facing the best. The boxing landscape is more political than ever. Managers and promoters focus more on protecting their investment; therefore some of the more significant bouts do not get made. However, when the best do face the best, it can provide a treat for the fans. That was the case in 2006, when lineal middleweight champion JermainBad Intentions” Taylor faced off with RonaldWinkyWright.

Jermain Taylor was groomed for the boxing spotlight very early on. He was a stellar amateur who represented the U.S.A. at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, winning the bronze medal. He turned pro in early 2001 and signed a huge contract with DiBella Entertainment. He was a crowd favorite from the very beginning. He had the complete package as he possessed the speed, power and skill. He knocked out 17 out of first 23 opponents.

In July, 2005, Taylor would get his shot at a world title as he took on the legendary, long time king of the middleweight division, Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins had been unbeaten for 12 years and made a record 20 defenses of his middleweight title. Taylor stepped up to the plate and showed the world that he was the future of boxing by dethroning the longtime champion in a close, but convincing split decision victory. He would decision Hopkins again in a rematch just five months later.

RonaldWinkyWright’s descent to the top was not an easy one. “Winky” was a very slick southpaw, known for his excellent defense and piston-like right jab. Wright had fought all over the world and was a huge draw in France as he fought there nine times in his career. Due to his difficult style, “Winky” had a hard time getting big fights and was often avoided. The fight that put “WinkyWright on the map was a close majority decision loss to Fernando Vargas in 1999; a fight that many felt “Winky” had won.

He would win the IBF Jr. Middleweight title in 2001 and successfully defended it four times before finally getting the break he was waiting for, which was a title unification bout with fellow titleholder “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Wright shined on the biggest stage of his career by outpointing Mosley twice in decision victories. After unifying the 154 lb division, Wright would move up to Middleweight where he would have his career defining fight against Felix “Tito” Trinidad.

Trinidad was in the second fight of his comeback when he faced “WinkyWright in May of 2005. Many beleived Trinidad would steamroll Wright; however “Winky” showed why he was one of the most avoided fighters in the sport by dominating every second of every minute of every round. Wright used his piston like jab to good effect and never let the hard punching Trinidad have any moments of the fight as he won a lopsided unanimous decision victory.

Wright would close out 2005 with a unanimous decision victory over Sam Soliman, which earned him a shot at Jermain Taylor’s middleweight crown. June of 2006 was a big month for boxing and HBO as there were two huge fights in back to back weeks. You had Antonio Tarver vs Bernard Hopkins in an HBO PPV event and 7 days later you had Jermain Taylor vs “WinkyWright.

Taylor and Wright met on 06/17/06 at the FedEX Forum in Memphis, TN for the “Undisputed” Middleweight championship. The first round wasn’t much of a feeling out process. Taylor dominated the first round with quick, crisp combinations to the the head and body. “WinkyWright started out a little slow and was trying to walk Taylor down; however with little success. As the bell to start the second round sounded, “Winky” Wright raced out of his corner and immediately began pressuring Taylor, landing combinations. Taylor would respond with some fire of his own and the fight was beginning to turn into a slugfest.

Taylor, the more natural middleweight, was the bigger puncher; however Wright showed his great chin and was able to walk through Taylor’s shots. “Winky“, known for his slick boxing, had to switch gears and move forward, pressing the fight. “Winky” was able to get Jermain in a corner and land some good left hand shots. It was a much better round for Wright and Taylor knew he was in a for a long, tough fight. The fisticups continued to fly in the third round as Taylor fought well on the outside, setting up his combinations with his left jab. Wright was able to shake off the punches well, blocking some of Taylor’s shots while pressing forward, landing his own shots.

Wright would pick up the pace in the fourth round, keeping the fight close and landing good combinations. Taylor’s activity slowed down a notch and he wasn’t doubling up on his shots as he had in the previous rounds. While Taylor still fired combinations, Wright was still able to pick alot of shots off with gloves. Round five was more of the same as the fight was fought in close quarters which favored “WinkyWright. While “Winky” wasn’t the bigger puncher of the two, his shots were making an impact.

Taylor regained his composure in the sixth by keeping Wright at a distance while landing quick, hard combinations. The seventh was fought at a very fast pace in which both fighters would have their moments; however Taylor had the slight edge based on his power punching. Wright would control the eighth as he was able to keep Taylor at close quarters and landing good combinations as he had Taylor on the ropes and in the corner.

The ninth was more of the same as “Winky” would would impose his will and his shots were making an impact as Taylor’s left eye began to swell shut. In the 10th, both men stepped it up a notch firing and trading punches. Taylor would fire off a quick combination and Wright would answer with a combination of his own. Neither man backing up, it was the most exciting round of the fight. The 11th round belonged to “Winky” as he was the more active and accurate puncher, pressing Taylor who was waiting on Wright to make a mistake.

The fight appeared to be on the table going into the 12th. The 12th round wasn’t very action packed as neither fighter went for the gusto. Both men had fought at a blistering pace throughout the fight and they both seemed to rest in the final minutes. While neither man did much, the edge in the round went to Taylor as he was the more active of the two. The fate of the fight rested in the hands of the judges. Chuck Giampa scored the fight 115-113 for Taylor. Judges Ray Hawkins scored the fight 115-113 for Wright. The final judge, Melvina Lathan scored the fight 114-114, making the fight a split draw.

Both men felt they won the fight and “WinkyWright immediately left the ring, not waiting around to be interviewed by HBO. It was a great fight that warranted a rematch, however it didn’t happen. Wright would close out 2006 with a landslide decision victory over former champion Ike Quartey and he would only fight three more times over the next five years, losing all three bouts to Bernard Hopkins, Paul Williams and Peter “Kid Chocoalate” Quillin. He would retire in 2012 with a record of 51-6-1 with 25 KO’s.

Taylor would defend his middleweight title twice more against smaller opponents moving up versus both Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks. He would lose his title in September of 2007 when he was stopped by Kelly Pavlik. He would lose the rematch to Pavlik five months later and then move up to Super Middleweight. He would defeat former champion and olympic teammate Jeff Lacy and then in early 2009 he would challenge for a super middleweight title against unbeaten champion Carl Froch.

After knocking Froch down early, Taylor ran out of gas late and was stopped in the 12th round. Later that year, Taylor participated in Showtime’s Super Six boxing tournament but withdrew from the tournament after suffering a bad KO loss to Arthur Abraham. Taylor would remain inactive for over two years and returned to the ring in 2011, moving back down to middleweight. He has been 4-0 with 2 KO’s in his comeback.

In August of 2014, Taylor was charged with two felonies after an altercation in his home with one of his cousins. The altercation would result in Taylor alledgedly shooting his cousin. Taylor is scheduled to fight brand new middleweight titleholder Sam Soliman on 10/08/2014 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The 2006 battle between Taylor and Wright was one of the few instances in which the best faced the best and the end result would be both fighters giving it their absolute best effort.

 

wright-taylor