Forgotten Classics: Acelino Freitas vs Jorge 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).

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