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Saturday, October 19, 2013
'Popo' Freitas wants Pacquiao

By Dan Rafael

DENVER -- Former lightweight and junior lightweight titlist Acelino “Popo” Freitas is now a congressman in his native Brazil, but he still is involved in boxing.

His 20-year-old nephew, Vitor Jones de Oliveira, who is like a son to Freitas, is on Saturday night’s Mike Alvarado-Ruslan Provodnikov card; Freitas and brother Luiz Freitas train him.

Jones de Oliveira -- who won his pro debut by first-round knockout in July 2012 but had the result changed to a no-decision after he tested positive for a banned substance -- faces Denver’s Martin Quesada (2-7, 2 KOs) in a four-round junior lightweight fight.

Freitas, one of boxing’s most exciting punchers, retired after an eight-round TKO loss to Juan Diaz in a 2007 lightweight title fight. But Freitas came out of retirement in June 2012 and knocked out Brazilian countryman Michael Oliveira, who had been calling him out, in the ninth round in a junior middleweight fight.

Freitas (39-2, 33 KOs) looked sharp, but retreated back to politics and training his nephew after that victory. He also works with his 16-year-old son -- a heavyweight and the only one of six sons who followed Freitas into the ring -- who is a 2-1 amateur.

(As many readers know, Popo is one of my all-time favorite fighters, and I have a cat named Popo, after him. And, yes, he asked about the cat when I saw him Friday; I did, in fact, show him pictures on my phone.)

The reason Freitas ended his retirement to fight Oliveira, he said, is because his son asked him to fight.

“He said, ‘Dad, I never saw you fight before. Do one fight for me,’” Freitas said through a translator. “So I had to come back for my son.”

He said he won’t fight again except for one specific bout -- a welterweight match against Manny Pacquiao.

Some might laugh, but it’s not out of the question if Pacquiao beats Brandon Rios on Nov. 23.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, and Artie Pelullo, Freitas’ longtime promoter, are here together in Denver because Arum promotes Alvarado and Pelullo promotes Provodnikov. They work well together, and told ESPN.com that they will speak more seriously about the prospect of that potential fight, which, if it happened (still a big “if”) would likely take place in Brazil -- if they can drum up a government sponsorship to make it financially viable. Given Freitas’ place in the government, it might have a chance.

At Friday’s Alvarado-Provodnikov weigh-in, Freitas, 38, himself spoke briefly to Arum about the fight -- which surely would be billed as “Congressman vs. Congressman,” given that Pacquiao is a legislator in the Philippines.

“I never got to fight some of the top fighters of my era, like Floyd Mayweather and Marco Antonio Barrera,” Freitas said. “I wanted those fights. Now, the only fight I want is Pacquiao. It’s not even about the money. It is just about showing I can do it. It would be a personal satisfaction to fight against Manny Pacquiao. He is the only one who can make me come back to the ring.”