Angel ‘Tito’ Acosta never gave a second thought as to who he would have to face in his quest to become a two-division champion.
The only question was who the right fit would be to coach him to that point.
Puerto Rico’s Acosta (22-2, 21KOs) found his answer in Joel Diaz, with whom he has spent the past several weeks in preparation for his September 10 challenge of WBO flyweight titlist Junto Nakatani (21-0, 16KOs).
“Joel Diaz is a world class trainer,” Acosta told BoxingScene.com. “I’ve been in his camp these past few weeks and we are in sync. We work very well together. I follow all of his instructions to the letter.
“I am surrounded by incredible talent, there are five world champions in this gym. By September 10, I will bring a sixth world championship.”
The bout will air live on ESPN+ from AVA Amphitheatre at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona. It comes after several delays, largely due to Covid which canceled plans for a clash this past May in Nakatani’s native Japan. It also means that Acosta—a former WBO junior flyweight titlist—moves forward without the guidance and love of his father-in-law and trainer, Juan Muciño who suddenly passed away earlier this summer.
“It was my decision and also a team decision,” explained Acosta. “I spoke with my wife Arely [Muciño, a current women’s flyweight champion] after her father, my father-in-law—who was my trainer—passed away. We agreed that Joel was the best fit as did [Miguel Cotto Promotions’] Hector (Soto), Bryan (Perez) and Miguel (Cotto). It was agreed by all of us that it was the right decision to work with Joel.”
Acosta has won his past two bouts while waiting out his mandatory title shot. Both wins come after suffering a controversial twelfth-round stoppage loss to Elwin Soto in June 2019, ending his junior flyweight title reign after more than eighteen months. The setback was perhaps a blessing in disguise, as Acosta long struggled to squeeze down to 108 pounds.
While waiting out his turn at becoming a two-division titlist, Acosta was able to pick up a few new tricks while improving his current skillset. The circumstances are unfortunate given the loss of a loved one, though with the comfort of knowing his career is in good hands—and with fresh eyes.
“The biggest difference I see is in my technique,” admits Acosta. “Joel is very big on observing film—not just fights but even training sessions. He observes, picks up on something and adjusts the way I’m throwing my jab, the way I’m turning over my punches.
“I feel the difference immediately, he just has this way of teaching you that feels very comfortable. We will see it once I’m in the ring on September 10.”
The bout serves in supporting capacity to local favorite Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23KOs), the two-division titlist who returns to his childhood hometown to defend his WBC junior lightweight belt versus 2016 Olympic Gold medalist Robson Conceicao (16-0, 8KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox