Ángel Acosta Gómez (born October 8, 1990) is a Puerto Rican professional boxer who competes at light flyweight. Burdened by a necessitous upbringing, he was introduced to boxing at an early age by his brother, later adopting the sport as the means to help his family. As an amateur, Acosta fought out of the Barrio Obrero Boxing Club, climbing the ranks until he became the national champion in his division. This allowed him participation in the Puerto Rico national boxing team, with which he won the gold medal at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. Unable to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics after losing a series to youth national champion Jantony Ortiz, Acosta decided to become a professional.
After a brief tenure with Universal Promotions early in his career, he signed with Promociones Miguel Cotto. As a professional Acosta became regarded as a knockout artist, scoring fifteen consecutive knockouts to open his career in a streak that included two regional title wins, before disposing of Japhet Uutoni in the same fashion to secure a world title opportunity.
Acosta was born the seventh out of nine siblings. He was raised in a low-income working class area known as Barrio Obrero in the capital of San Juan. His family was among the poorest, a situation that Acosta channeled by becoming involved in scuffles both at school and in the streets. His older brother, amateur boxer Luis A. Gómez, noticed this behavior and took him to Barrio Obrero's gymnasium in late 1999, where he began training in the sport. While growing up, Acosta followed the careers of welterweight trio Félix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto and Daniel Santos while also admiring the technical prowess of Iván Calderón. During this timeframe, the family moved to a public housing project known as Las Gladiolas, where he met fellow boxer Félix Verdejo. The elder sibling managed Acosta throughout his early amateur career, but died suddenly in 2005. Another of his siblings also died, while the eldest left to live abroad. To support his mother, María del Carmen Gómez, he opted to dropout in seventh grade, intending to find a way to earn enough money to repair an inherited house and resume his studies.
Acosta took to boxing full time soon afterwards, challenging himself by training and sparring heavier adults as a teenager, among which was Erickson Martell. In 2008, he joined a volunteer program headed by AIBA referee José Bonet. Early in his adulthood, the family returned to Barrio Obrero. The sport brought him popularity within the community, which gained more traction after becoming the Central American and Caribbean amateur champion, something that contributes towards another of his stated goals; to become a "hero" for the community. While still an unproven professional in 2014, Acosta began working as a delivery boy for a local store named Michael Pizza at the behest of a friend. His familiarity with Barrio Obrero helped him perform this task, which he undertook as both a temporary hobby and an additional source of income for his immediate family and other expenses, but which took a backseat to training for his fights. As his name became more known, the pizzeria began receiving requests asking for Acosta specifically.
The circumstances of his upbringing have brought interest from the media, beginning in 2014 when Acosta was the subject of !Ti-to!, a short documentary directed by Ángel Manuel Soto and filmed as part Huffington Post's RYOT initiative. Sponsored by Apple, the film was entirely shot using a smartphone camera. Two years later, he was the titular topic of El Púgil, an extended biographical documentary about the same subject created by Soto, which was distributed by the local Fine Arts cinema and was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival. Even after advancing far enough in his professional career to be considered a contender, Acosta insisted that he had no intention of moving away from Barrio Obrero, with the local gym still serving as the main base of his camps with trainer Javier Arce.
Once part of the Puerto Rico national program, Acosta's style grew more technical under the tutelage of José Laureano and Víctor Ortiz. In the semifinals of the 2009 José "Cheo" Aponte Cup, he lost a 11:11+ tiebreaker to compatriot Waldemar Rodriguez. On July 5, 2009, Acosta competed in the finals of the Copa Olímpica Juan Evangelista Venegas, an annual tournament held by the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee (COPUR), losing to Emmanuel Rodríguez by RSC in two rounds. On October 8, 2009, Acosta participated in a tournament held between the national teams of Puerto Rico and Canada, defeating Ahmed Karatella 16:6 figting in the flyweight division. On October 17, 2009, Acosta participated in one of the Programa Comunidad Dominicana de PR events, defeating Stanley Cordero of Cubuy Club by decision. In November, Acosta participated in the 2009 Cabo Joe Rivera Tournament representing the Metropolitan Region. He defeated Jerry Ortiz of Punta Borinquen by walkover to advance. In the finals, Acosta lost to Carlos Ortiz of the Southern Region in a 2:2+ tiebreaker, being edged 5:4.
In the senior flyweight division of the 2010 Isaac Barrientos Tournament, Acosta defeated Israel Vázquez (son of professional tri-division former champion Wilfredo Vázquez) with scores of 6:0 in the quarterfinals. He repeated the performance in the next round, this time against Bryan Aquino. Acosta won the national title by defeating Emanuel Ramírez in the finals. On April 25, 2010, Acosta lost a match to René Santiago of Punta Santiago, as part of an event where the national champions were evaluated. In May 2010, Acosta participated in the José "Cheo" Aponte Cup, advancing to the finals. In the quarterfinals of the 2010 Panamerican Championships, Acosta defeated Juan Rodríguez of Mexico in a 6:6+ tiebreaker. In the next round, he lost a 4:3 fight to Junior Zárate of Argentina. Acosta was selected Puerto Rico's representative in the light flyweight (106 pounds) division of the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games. He debuted by defeating Arles Contreras of Colombia 7:2. A 14:4 semifinal victory over David Jiménez of Costa Rica followed. In the finals, Acosta defeated Alvaro Vargas of Guatemala with scores of 19:5 to win the tournament’s gold medal. Afterwards, he was among the Metropolitan Region's boxers to receive a commendation for their performance in the event.
In October 2010, he participated in the La Romana Cup in the Dominican Republic, winning the event's bronze medal. In December, Acosta defeated Eros Correa of California in a tournament held by the Puerto Rico and United States national teams. In the 2010 Metropolitan Region Awards, Acosta was listed among the "Most Accomplished Adult Boxers" as his division's representative. In the opening round of the 2011 Isaac Barrientos Tournament, Acosta debuted by besting Desma Correa of Arecibo. However, he was among the defending champions dethroned that year, when he lost to Jantony Ortiz in the second preliminary round. In the 2011 Copa Olímpica, Acosta advanced to the semifinals by defeating Juan Gabriel Medina of the Dominican Republic 13:8. In the semifinals, he bested Anthony Chacón 16:11. Acosta lost the finals to Jantony Ortiz 11:7. His next tournament was the José "Cheo" Aponte Cup held only days later, where he advanced to the quarterfinals. In December 2011, Acosta suffered another defeat to Jantony Ortiz in the finals of the Juan Evangelista Venegas Tournament, this time with scores of 8:5, marking the third and last loss in a streak that propelled his opponent to the national team. Excluded from the 2012 American Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament in favor of his opponent and thus unable to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics, Acosta decided to close an amateur career of 184 matches. He formally announced his intentions to join Javier Bustillo's Universal Promotions in a press conference, where it was informed that he would begin his professional career at a catchweight of 110 pounds.
Acosta made his professional debut on November 12, 2012, in Caguas, Puerto Rico, defeating Alexis Díaz by knockout in three rounds. He opened the following year with a second-round knockout of Christian López that won the card's "El Palo De La Noche de Palo Viejo" (equivalent to "Best KO") bonus prize. In June 2013, Acosta signed a promotional contract with Promociones Miguel Cotto (PMC) and H2 Entertainment, a firm property of the eponymous four-division world champion. Acosta next competed in his first fight abroad as a professional, defeating Domingo Berroa inside three rounds in a card held at La Romana, Dominican Republic. Despite these results, he publicly admitted that the adaptation to professional style was still ongoing. This was followed by another visit to this country, where he defeated José Adán Fernández in 1:17 as part of his first six-round contest. In his return to Puerto Rico, Acosta won a fourth-round knockout over Pedro Ortiz, whom he knocked down thrice in the final round. A rematch with Díaz concluded with the same result of their first encounter, with the stoppage taking place within 1:29 this time.
On June 14, 2014, Acosta made his New Jersey debut, scoring a first-round knockdown en route to a three-round win over Eduardo Valenzuela. A return to the Dominican Republic resulted in a second round technical knockout over Eduardo Juan. Acosta then made his Texas debut, scoring a technical knockout over Víctor Ruíz, who suffered a severe injury in one of his eyes and was withdrawn by recomendación of the ringside doctor. His perfect knockout ratio reached double digits with a win over Armando Vázquez at Caguas, in what was his first titular fight where he won the World Boxing Council's FECARBOX Light Flyweight Championship. In the same municipality, Acosta stopped Luis Almendarez within the first round with a body shot. He then made his Florida debut, injuring Felipe Rivas in the first and finishing the fight two rounds later. Acosta then met former training partner Ericson Martell as part of a PMC vs. Universal Promotions card, winning by stoppage in the second round and retaining his title. This was followed by another early stoppage over Juan Gúzman, in a fight that lasted 1:24.
Acosta was then scheduled to compete in his second regional title fight, this time for the World Boxing Organization's (WBO) Latino Light Flyweight Championship, against Luis Armando Ceja. The entity later informed PMC that the winner would be in line to fight a top contender for a title shot. While Ceja dismissed him as merely a puncher, Acosta insisted that his streak would remain intact despite the former never being knocked out. Veteran trainer Jim Pagán joined the team prior to this fight. In the card that took place on November 12, 2016, Acosta scored a second round knockdown and followed suit to give Ceja the first knockout loss of his career. Immediately afterwards, WBO president Francisco Valcárcel confirmed that the win placed him on pace for a world title fight by May 2017.
The boxing style displayed during this stage of his career drew attention, in particular because of combining respectable speed with a type of power that was considered rare in the lower weight classes. Unlike most heavy hitters, who publicly dismiss knockouts as a byproduct of a good fight, Acosta was honest about the importance that he gave to the streak with which he began his career. His style also drew comparisons to other Puerto Rican boxers that had won titles in the minimumweight and strawweight divisions (105-108). When queried about the matter, Valcárcel asserted that Acosta was more advanced than José De Jesús, Josué Camacho, Alex Sánchez, Nelson Dieppa and Iván Calderón when they had the same quantity of fight. The functionary considered his punching power to that of Sánchez and that his technical skills were only second to Calderón among that group, considering him a superior version of De Jesús. Following his win over Ceja, Valcárcel also commented that his left hook was reminiscent of Wilfredo Gómez. Another to comment favorably on his speed and punching power was former world champion Carlos de León, who observed that they seemed to increase with each passing fight.
Eliminator and world title shot
Following the defeat of Ceja, the WBO ordered an eliminator match to determine the mandatory challenger for the division's world champion, Kosei Tanaka. Japhet Uutoni (12–1, 5 KOs) was set as the other fighter, difficulting the scouting effort of Acosta's team due to a lack of fight footage (only one of the Namibian's matches was online, and it was dated to 2005), due to this instead of devising a counterattack strategy they focused on preparing him for a much taller adversary by sparring with contender Yaniel Rivera. Particular attention was paid for the development of patience, with the boxer himself distancing from his previous stance on the streak and expressing that he would be satisfied with a decision win. On February 11, 2017, Acosta defeated Uutoni by tenth-round knockout in the main event of a card held at the Roger Mendoza Coliseum in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Prior to the stoppage, he scored knockdowns in the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 9th rounds. After the fight, Tanaka, who was in attendance, entered the ring and was involved in a promotional faceoff with Acosta.
Both would later hold amicable reunions at Barrio Obrero, and other promotional activities were made where the champion acknowledged that Acosta had "all around skills" and assessed that the punching power was superior to that of Moisés Fuentes, whom he had defeated priorly. Promociones Miguel Cotto negotiated to bring the fight to Puerto Rico or neutral ground, but the arrangements that Tanaka's promoter had done prior to the eliminator stood and the fight was formalized there. Acosta's first world title opportunity was scheduled to take place in the champion's home country of Japan, forcing the team to prepare him for his first journey to the eastern hemisphere by scientifically absorbing the hour difference over a span of two weeks, beginning the adaptation locally following a delay in the visa process. This development forced a four-day stay in New York and the rescheduling of his final sparring session to El Maestro Juan Laporte Gym in The Bronx, also fragmenting the group until trainers Javier Arce and Jim Pagán could travel there.
Minor adjustments were done to his in-ring behavior, several former champions were consulted (John John Molina, Solís, Alfredo Escalera, etc.) with Carlos de León and Miguel Cotto broadening his technical knowledge. Physical trainer César Pellot implemented a regime designed by Marcin Machula. Other changes made for this fight included beginning the camp abroad, traveling to Buffalo, New York with Juan de León (brother of Carlos and co-manager of his career along Willie Silvestrí) and expending four weeks there.
Professional boxing record
|Professional record summary|
|17 fights||16 wins||1 loss|
|17||Loss||16–1||Kosei Tanaka||UD||12||May 20, 2017||Takeda Teva Ocean Arena, Nagoya, Japan||For WBO light flyweight title|
|16||Win||16–0||Japhet Uutoni||TKO||10 (12), 1:01||Feb 11, 2017||Roger L. Mendoza Coliseum, Caguas, Puerto Rico|
|15||Win||15–0||Luis Ceja||KO||2 (10), 2:48||Nov 12, 2016||Complejo Ferial de Puerto Rico, Ponce, Puerto Rico||Won vacant WBO Latino light flyweight title|
|14||Win||14–0||Juan Guzmán||KO||1 (8), 1:24||Aug 6, 2016||Cosme Beitia Salamo Coliseum, Cataño, Puerto Rico|
|13||Win||13–0||Erickson Martell||KO||2 (8), 2:59||Apr 23, 2016||Roger L. Mendoza Coliseum, Caguas, Puerto Rico||Retained WBC FECARBOX light flyweight title|
|12||Win||12–0||Felipe Rivas||KO||3 (6), 1:46||Dec 5, 2015||Osceola Heritage Center, Kissimmee, Florida, U.S.|
|11||Win||11–0||Luis Almendarez||KO||1 (8), 1:30||Aug 8, 2015||Héctor Solá Bezares Coliseum, Caguas, Puerto Rico|
|10||Win||10–0||Armando Vázquez||KO||7 (8), 2:41||Mar 14, 2015||Roger L. Mendoza Coliseum, Caguas, Puerto Rico||Won vacant WBC FECARBOX light flyweight title|
|9||Win||9–0||Victor Ruiz||RTD||6 (6), 0:40||Nov 15, 2014||Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, U.S.|
|8||Win||8–0||Eduardo Juan||TKO||2 (4), 1:36||Sep 17, 2014||Polideportivo de Sabana Perdida, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic|
|7||Win||7–0||Eduardo Valenzuela||TKO||3 (6), 1:55||Jun 14, 2014||Bally's Atlantic City, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.|
|6||Win||6–0||Alexis Díaz||KO||1 (6), 1:29||Feb 1, 2014||Roger L. Mendoza Coliseum, Caguas, Puerto Rico|
|5||Win||5–0||Pedro Ortiz||TKO||4 (4), 2:29||Oct 26, 2013||Rafael G. Amalbert Coliseum, Juncos, Puerto Rico|
|4||Win||4–0||José Fernández||TKO||1 (6), 1:17||Aug 24, 2013||Pedro Julio Nolasco Coliseum, La Romana, Dominican Republic|
|3||Win||3–0||Domingo Berroa||TKO||3 (4), 1:37||Jun 22, 2013||Pedro Julio Nolasco Coliseum, La Romana, Dominican Republic|
|2||Win||2–0||Christian López||TKO||2 (4), 1:23||Feb 23, 2013||Cosme Beitia Salamo Coliseum, Cataño, Puerto Rico|
|1||Win||1–0||Alexis Díaz||TKO||3 (4), 2:36||Nov 17, 2012||Roger L. Mendoza Coliseum, Caguas, Puerto Rico||Professional debut|