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Freitas vs. Ramirez: Intangibles won’t spark bets

Mar 11, 2003 3:37 AM

There should be no action on next Saturday’s Showtime main event from Chicago, so this is all academic to maybe learn something about intangibles.

Acelino (Popo) Freitas, undefeated and a two-belt champion at 130 pounds, was going to be given "an easy fight," said his promoter, Art Pelullo.

At one point, before an outcry from the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Shot Fighters, the opponent was going to be Gabe Ruelas.

Showtime backed down, so now it’s Juan Carlos (Ranchero) Ramirez ”” a decent boxer with a little power.

Ramirez is moving up in weight class against one of the best punchers in boxing who promised his dying father a knockout in this bout.

On paper, it should be a slaughter. Paper does not include intangibles, which sometimes can be as big an equalizer as a right cross.

Freitas, looking forward to a showdown at 135 pounds next year against Floyd Mayweather Jr., won his first 29 fights by knockout. But he has been taken the distance in his last three and his father, who died in November of cancer, told him he wanted another knockout. Enter the "easy" fight.

If you’ve seen the house where Ramirez was born, where he still lives, you know he will not be "easy."

The "Ranch" where he was born was built on a garbage dump. The house, originally, was mostly cardboard with cutouts for windows. No glass, no electricity (candles), no running water, no sewage.

In the village of Anapra, on the edge of Ciudad Juarez (a Tiger Woods 5-iron from the comparative prosperity of the United States) there are houses built from cardboard, wood, old tires and corrugated steel. The water truck still comes around once a week and for $5 you can have a barrel filled.

It is a testimonial to how tough man can be. Ramirez is just more famous than his neighbors.

Ranchero’s home now has electricity and running water. He takes much of his purse money to fix up not only his home, but those of his neighbors.

Ramirez, who pays $5,000 a house to install running water, will "never, ever" leave Anapra. He couldn’t take Anapra out of him, anyway.

"I’ll die on the line if I have to," he says. I heard him say it before his first world title shot, against Luis Espinosa across the Rio Grande in El Paso. That was in 1998.

Ramirez was coming on at the end and might have stopped Espinosa, when they clashed heads. The champion was cut and the bout went to the scorecards where Ramirez lost a majority decision.

The following year, Erik Morales kept knocking him down, but Ranchero kept getting up and his corner had to stop it after the ninth round.

Freitas may hit harder than even Morales, but Ramirez thinks the Brazilian hero ”” he is on the level of Pele and Ronaldo ”” "is not that great" after watching tapes in his mountain camp outside Mexico City.

"Everybody who fights him uses the wrong strategy," said Ranchero. "They are all mentally prepared to lose. They all run and see if Freitas can catch them. I don’t think that way."

Like Roy Jones, Ranchero keeps fighting cocks on his "Ranch" and has been around them all his 25 years.

At age 5, he began preparing them for battle, tying razors to their legs. He watched them and decided he, too, would be a fighter.

The difference between boxing and cockfighting, he said, is "one wears gloves, the other razors."

It may be dangerous running into a puncher, but Ramirez believes Freitas can not fight going backwards. Not many can.

"You’ll see a Ranchero is more macho than a Brazilian guy," he said.

He gets knocked down, he gets up. It is the same with his birds, Ramirez said. "If a bird doesn’t get up, it’s dead."

Intangibles could play a large part, but let’s not get carried away. Freitas slept on a dirt floor growing up. He didn’t move onto a bed until he was 17.