Rejuvenated Angel Acosta out to swipe WBO 112-pound title from Junto Nakatani
Angel Acosta is not about to let the death of his father-in-law/ trainer go in vain. Instead, the Puerto Rico native is using the memory of Juan Mucino as motivation to win another world title.
Acosta will challenge WBO flyweight titleholder Junto Nakatani on Friday at the AVA Amphitheatre on the grounds of the Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona. The 12-round bout will precede the main event between Oscar Valdez and unbeaten challenger Robson Conceicao.
Both fights will stream live on ESPN+ (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
At Thursday’s weigh-in, Nakatani, who is rated No. 4 by The Ring at flyweight, weighed in at 111.4 pounds, while Acosta was bang on the division limit at 112.
Many believe this could be a Fight of the Year candidate due to the aggressive and fan-friendly styles of both men. But while Acosta admits that he’d like to please the fans in attendance and those tuning in on ESPN+, it’s his priority to box a disciplined fight and stick to the game plan.
“I am ready and well-prepared for a great fight,” Acosta told The Ring Thursday afternoon. “Nakatani is a great fighter. I’m going to work round by round, preparing for a knockout. I think the fans will enjoy it.”
Acosta (22-2, 21 knockouts) is campaigning at flyweight following a successful run at 108 pounds that saw him win the WBO title in December 2017. He made three defenses before losing in dramatic and somewhat controversial fashion to Elwin Soto via 12-round knockout in a fight he was winning on all three scorecards. Many felt the bout was stopped prematurely.
Having bounced back with two wins, Acosta now believes that he is a legitimate contender at 112 pounds, and he has used the Soto setback as a learning curve.
“I learned to be calm,” said Acosta, who is co-promoted by Miguel Cotto Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions. “I think despair made me make critical mistakes during the fight. I think that was a key factor. It gave me a lot of experience and I learned to control my emotions.”
Acosta, who is from San Juan, has acclimated well to a new weight class, but he has had to deal with a significant loss, both in and out of the ring.
Mucino passed away on July 13, leaving Acosta without a trainer. After spending days mourning the loss, he decided to utilize the services of trainer Joel Diaz at his training facility in Indio, California.
“I tried not to let problems interfere with my fighting in the ring,” said Acosta. “I was always training and stayed in the gym. The death of my father-in-law was a hard blow, but I learned a lot from him and that has given me much more strength to win the championship and dedicate the victory to him and Puerto Rico.”
Nakatani (21-0, 16 KOs), who resides in Sagamihara, Japan, won the vacant WBO flyweight title in his last bout, on November 6, by knocking out Giemel Magramo of the Philippines in eight rounds. The 23-year-old has stopped his last seven opponents.
In the main event of tonight’s Top Rank card, Oscar Valdez weighed in at the junior lightweight limit of 130 pounds. Conceicao weighed 129.6 pounds.