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“Never Disrespect a Champion”: Soccer Ace Neymar Jr Hails Four Time World Champion Who Hit Harder Than Mike Tyson

Published 02/25/2024, 5:45 AM EST

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Most champions post-retirement eventually fade away. Rather, they might prefer it that way. But like anything and everything, there are exceptions to that rule as well. A few simply refuse to recede from view. They continue to shine and inspire. To them, age is just a number.

Last year, after his stint with Paris Saint-Germain got over, Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, or simply Neymar Jr., grabbed major headlines as he joined the Saudi Pro League club Al Hilal. The Brazilian forward has thus far made three appearances for the side. A few hours ago, Neymar Jr., through his Instagram story, hailed a former world champion and boxing great whose exploits often draw comparisons with ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’. He reminded everyone that the memory of true champions should never be tarred and feathered.

The Art of Reverence: A Tribute from Neymar Jr. 

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In chaste Brazilian Portuguese, Neymar Jr. wrote, “Nunca Desrespeite Um Capeao,” which roughly translates in English to “Never disrespect a champion.” He had tagged @popofeitas, or otherwise, Acelino ‘Popo’ Freitas, whose snapshot appeared in the middle of the slide. Why should a Brazilian soccer legend felicitate a retired boxer?

 

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Though he fought the last professional bout of his career six years ago, ‘Popo’ Freitas never really hung up his gloves. On Saturday, February 24, he knocked out Sao Paulo-born actor Kleber Bambam in 37 seconds. The duo headlined Fight Music Show 4 at Vibra São Paulo. The event showcased boxing as well as mixed martial arts fights, spanning both main and preliminary cards.

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In fact, last year, Acelino ‘Popo’ Freitas fought two exhibition bouts. While the first fight on January 30 against Brazilian YouTuber-actor-musician Whindersson Nunes ended in a draw, the second match on September 25 turned out in his favor. According to ESPN’s Brazilian publication, the former two-division champion plastered Bambam with punches right from the word-go. As a result, the latter went down the canvas. However, he got up within the referee’s count and continued.

But the writing was already there on the wall. Another barrage from ‘Popo’ Freitas saw him fall on the ropes. However, this time, he couldn’t beat the count, and the referee waived off his hands, stopping the fight.

Though interspersed by breaks towards the end, a nearly two-decade-long career saw Acelino ‘Popo’ Freitas win 41 matches at the cost of two defeats.

A Career Through Challenges

But it was his high propensity for early stoppages that brought about frequent comparisons with a contemporary who dazzled the heavyweight division, Mike Tyson. While the American heavyweight’s streak of knockouts came to a close by the twentieth fight, ‘Popo’ Freitas’ continued way till the twenty-ninth.

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Commencing his career on July 14, 1995, the Salvador, Bahia-born boxer won his first world title on August 7, 1999. Thereafter, he defended the WBO super featherweight tile ten times and rather added the WBA (super) version to his kitty. In January 2004, moving up a division, he became the WBO lightweight champion. It’s a different matter that he lost it a few months later, only to regain it two years later and finally part with it in April 2007.

Subsequently, Acelino Freitas went on a break that lasted until 2012. He won the comeback bout against Michael Oliveira. However, the pattern of breaks continued as he disappeared once again for two years before making a return in August 2015. ‘Popo’ Freitas fought his final bout on November 11, 2017.

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Which is your favorite crossover fight of all-time? Please share your views with us in the comments below.

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Written by:

Jaideep R Unnithan

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Edited by:

Snigdhaa Jaiswal