By Francisco Salazar
Puerto Rico has become synonymous with boxing and the great fighters that have held world title belts over the last several years. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico has been in a bit of a dry spell.
The only fighter from the talent-rich island nation is WBO junior flyweight titleholder Angel ‘Tito’ Acosta. While he fights for himself in defending his title in Puerto Rico or abroad, Acosta is more than proud to represent the entire nation and hopes for a unification fight in the future.
Acosta will defend his world title belt against Elwin Soto of Mexico tonight at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. The 12-round bout will precede the rematch between Andrew Cancio and Alberto Machado.
Both fights will stream live on DAZN (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
At Thursday’s weigh-in, Acosta weighed in at the junior flyweight limit of 108 pounds. Soto weighed 107.4 pounds.
Acosta (20-1, 20 knockouts) will be making the fourth defense of the WBO title he won in December of 2017, knocking out Mexico’s Juan Alejo in the 10th round. In his last bout on Mar. 30, Acosta, who resides in San Juan, knocked out Ganigan Lopez of Mexico City in the eighth round.
The fight will be another chapter in the storied rivalry between fighters from Mexico and Puerto Rico, which Acosta believes will produce another exciting bout.
“I know it will be a great fight between me and Soto,” Acosta told Boxingscene Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know a lot about him. We’re both professionals and know what is at stake.”
Soto (14-1, 10 KOs), who resides in Mexicali, Mexico, will take a significant step-up in opposition against Acosta. The 22-year-old Soto last fought on May 4, knocking out overmatched Jose Castro in round four.
Soto has only fought two fighters with winning records and his most notable victory was a knockout victory over Erick Gonzalez, who entered the fight unbeaten. Acosta may be the significant favorite tonight, but he is not overlooking Soto.
“He may be too young to fight me, but he has this opportunity to fight me,” said the 28-year-old Acosta, who is co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Miguel Cotto Promotions. “I’m not overlooking him. Like in the Lopez fight, I may start slow, but I can adapt to any style. I use my experience and intelligence to overcome any challenge. I always look to fight 12 rounds, but if the knockout is there, I’ll take it.”
Acosta is aiming for five title defenses should he come out victorious against Soto. There is the possibility of facing mandatory challenger Tetsuya Hisada of Japan.
There are plans later this year or in 2020, which also include moving up in weight to 112 pounds.
“I would like to have five title defenses of my world title. I would also like the opportunity to unify the division. There is also the possibility of moving up in weight as well. There’s many options for me.”
Acosta has not fought in Puerto Rico since his 12th round knockout victory over Carlos Buitrago on June 16 of last year. He hopes to fight again before family and friends, having recently fought in Indio or Las Vegas.
With the struggles Puerto Rico has faced, including recovering from a devastating hurricane last year and economic hardship, Acosta is willing to carry the nation on his shoulders.
“I appreciate the support from all Puerto Ricans, whether it’s my family or anyone on the island. They’ve always been there to support, even when I have fought in the United States.”
“It is great to see the people on the island support all the great champions in the past. I’m moved by their support, which is why I’m motivated to do my best every time I’m in the ring.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing