And the sky is blue, grass is green. An obvious statement of course, but the weekend corner retirement of Acelino Freitas brought down the curtain on a distinguished career and it would be sad if the hard-punching Brazilian is remembered only for quitting versus Diego Corrales and young Juan Diaz at the weekend. It would be unjust to overlook his longevity and the knockout streak of his youth.
It is easy to sit on the sofa necking beer and eating fig rolls to expect more from our boxing champions, to expect them to push themselves beyond the usual human instinct for self-preservation, to literally leave a portion of themselves in the ring before accepting defeat. The harsh realities of boxing at any level, but particularly at the elite level Freitas has excelled, would astound many uninitiated to the physical and mental strain fighting for a living causes.
Not that I’m about to cast any personal illumination on that, having never laced up a pair of gloves allowed someone to hit me with theirs. However, having been around fighters and watched them both in the gym, in the ring and spoken to many at length on the sacrifices they make before ducking between the ropes I feel qualified to comment on criticism a fighter receives for quitting in the ring. And it is because of this that I fully support Freitas’ right to listen to his body, his instincts and the voice inside him that says “enough”. This final ‘no man’ shouldn’t undermine his entire fistic career.
True, boxing fans applaud the likes of Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, Arturo Gatti and Dennis Andries who could take punishment and keep on coming. Their irrepressible resolve is both admirable and in some ways the bedrock of boxing, but the gumption it takes simply to fight, to prevail against weight making, to overcome ambitious hungry fighters and to repel the human instinct for self-preservation as long as Freitas has deserves warm applause too.
I’m reminded of Nigel Benn’s sad departure from the professional ring against Steve Collins. Booed for failing to continue when hindered by a injured ankle, the popular fighter was hurt more by the crowd reaction following the pain, blood and entertainment he’d provide in over a decade at boxing’s hardest coal face than anything the Irishman had inflicted.
Exactly what did the fans expect, particularly in a generation that had seen both Watson and McClellan severely injured by their own bravery, the latter at Benn’s own fists, for Benn to leave boxing on a stretcher? Would that have been the only way to sate their thirst?
And it is with that in mind that I commend Freitas for having the courage to quit and for his career up to that point.