Angel Acosta delivers pizzas when he’s not delivering knockouts
They say “Don’t quit your day job” when you aren’t too good at your higher aspiration. For Angel Acosta, the evidence is clear that he’s pretty good at professional boxing: he’s the WBO junior flyweight titleholder, and will make his second title defense this Saturday, October 13, against Abraham Rodriguez at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Yet, even while his career takes off, Acosta still handles his business with his day job delivering pizzas for Michael Pizza in his hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“I like to work on it in my free time because I get to communicate with people, I know it well, the people there support me, and you can also make some money off it,” said Acosta (18-1, 18 knockouts). “I pay for my car and pay for my cellphone.”
The pizza shop is in the neighborhood he grew up in, Barrio Obrero, so he knows his way around the streets. He’s worked there since 2014, and says the money helps him make his car payments and takes care of his cellphone bill. As Acosta’s profile in the sports has risen, so too has the community’s familiarity with him. Some are surprised to see their medium pie with extra cheese brought to them by the noteworthy pugilist, and often greet him with hugs.
“If I were able to make some money, I would like to open my own pizzeria because I’ve learned so much where I’ve been working,” said Acosta.
He can usually make between $70-$80 on a good night, and says the biggest single tip he’s received is $25.
He’ll make more than that for a night’s work against Rodriguez (23-1, 11 KOs), an aggressive, in-your-face brawler from Tijuana, Mexico. The scheduled 12-round bout will headline a Golden Boy Fight Night on Facebook Watch, offering a bigger audience than saw his first defense in June against Carlos Buitrago, which was shown in the mainland U.S. on an independent pay-per-view. It may possibly be even bigger than that which saw his title-winning effort last December when he stopped Juan Alejo in ten rounds at Madison Square Garden on the untelevised portion of Cotto’s final pro fight against Sadam Ali.
“I’m very happy with my promoter Miguel Cotto Promotions and with Golden Boy Promotions for this opportunity to fight on such a big platform with fighters like Jesus Rojas and Jojo Diaz fought. Jojo Diaz is the one who started it off and had a million views. So I’m happy to be fighting and I’m happy to deliver a big fight to the people of Puerto Rico,” said Acosta, 28.
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Prior to turning pro, Acosta had been a top amateur in Puerto Rico, winning gold at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games before turning pro after missing out on the 2012 Olympics.
Acosta won his first 16 fights by knockout before traveling to Japan to challenge Kosei Tanaka for the WBO junior flyweight title in May of 2017. He rose off the canvas in round 5 but lost a unanimous decision. His second title shot, for the belt Tanaka vacated when he moved up, went much more the way Acosta had wanted.
His nickname, “Tito”, harkens back to a fighter many Puerto Ricans loved for his big-punching style, Felix Trinidad. Though he possesses a formidable left hook to the head and body, Acosta’s money punch is his right hand.
“My mom was strong and I’m like that too,” Acosta says, explaining where his power comes from. “I love looking for the knockout. People like it so I go for it.”
The weight division he’s in at 108 pounds is stacked with talent, if lacking in attention given to the higher weights. The head honcho in the division now is Hekkie Budler, the South African who holds THE RING and WBA titles in the division. Acosta says he saw Budler’s title winning fight over Ryoichi Taguchi, and describes him as “a tremendous fighter…he’s also a fighter who likes to look for the knockout.”
Acosta also heaped similar praise on unbeaten WBC titleholder Ken Shiro, calling him “a great fighter” who is “tall and big for his weight class.”
As for the possibility of unification, he leaves it up to his promoters. “They’ll decide and if there’s a good offer I’ll take a unification fight,” said Acosta.
First he has to get by Rodriguez, 23, whose lone defeat came two fights ago to Alejandro Villasenor this past March. The fight was stopped in the fifth round when a nasty gash on his left eye was ruled caused by a punch – when it was most likely the head clash just before it that started the bleeding.
If Acosta can continue to deliver knockouts, he could be on his way to owning a pizzeria of his own. Or better yet, attaining icon status in his native Puerto Rico.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].