|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - April 04, 2017|
With the biggest bout of his career upcoming on Saturday night at the new MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD, Jason Sosa, Camden, NJ, was named the “Philly Fighter of the Year” for 2016. The honor comes after a pair of stellar 2016 performances. Last June, Sosa captured the WBA junior lightweight championship in an upset of Javier Fortuna in China. He also successfully defended his title in Monte Carlo against favored Brit Stephen Smith in a November title bout. This fine stretch for Sosa was preceded by a disputed draw against then-undefeated Nicholas Walters in 2015.
On Saturday, Sosa faces his biggest challenge thus far when he steps into the ring against California-based Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko, the WBO junior lightweight champ. Lomachenko is also considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
“I feel anxious,” Sosa said about the fight, from his training camp in Puerto Rico. “I want to already be in the ring and get it on with Lomachenko.”
Despite being just 7-1 with 5 KOs as a pro, “Loma” is considered the top dog at 130 pounds, and boasts a vast amateur career that includes two Olympic Gold Medals (Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012), four World Championships (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011), and hundreds of amateur contests.
By comparison, Sosa, 20-1-4, 15 KOs professionally, only has a few amateur bouts to his credit. This fact, as well as Loma’s current touting as the world’s best boxer, make Jason Sosa the biggest of big underdogs on Saturday. Few give him a chance to win, and almost as many doubt he’ll make it to the final bell. Then again, respect has never exactly been showered on Sosa.
“Honestly, I like being the underdog,” Sosa said. “Everybody expected everyone I’ve faced to win. (Being the) underdog is no different. It takes the pressure off and it motivates me to showcase my skills. I’m very excited.”
Ever since his pro debut at Philadelphia’s Blue Horizon in 2009, the South Jersey fighter has kept his head down, worked hard, and done his best to prove himself every time out. After a shaky start (4-1-3), Sosa hit his stride and started knocking out every opponent that promoter J Russell Peltz could line up for him. Eventually, Top Rank noticed, and joined on as Sosa’s co-promoter.
Between 2012 and 2015, a 13-bout knockout streak by Sosa unfolded against increasingly better competition. The run was finally snapped by the draw with Walters. However, instead of Sosa gaining attention for fighting so well against a world-class foe who was expected put him through the grinder, the world only seemed to focus on what was probably a “gift-y” draw decision.
Perhaps the experts, who predicted Sosa’s certain demise, so hated being wrong about the fight’s outcome, that they missed the fact that, against Walters, Sosa proved that he belonged on the big stage. Afterward, as he is apt to do, Sosa brushed off this slight, and defied the odds once again in his very next fight.
No one expected Sosa to take Javier Fortuna’s world title. On paper, the slick Dominican southpaw was the better fighter with the longer resume. However in the ring, Sosa fought through his various skill and style deficits to stop the unbeaten champ in round eleven. Of course, many experts called it a fluke, and predicted that he’d never successfully defend his new belt. Not so. In November, Sosa defeated his first challenger, the more experienced and favored Stephen Smith, by unanimous decision. He hopes to pull another surprise on Lomachenko.
“I fought some big names,” Sosa said. “And I’m pretty sure those fights got me ready to fight Lomachenko.”
Which brings us back to the WBO champion. There is little doubt that Jason Sosa is in for a challenging evening with the does-it-all-well Ukrainian. However, if there is anyone who can give the touted P4P king a run for his money, it is a fighter like Sosa.
Sosa is a hard worker with the best possible attitude that a fighter can have. He takes nothing for granted and yearns to fight the best possible competition he can. Lomachenko has had difficulty finding willing opponents. Many top boxers took a pass when their phones rang. Not Jason Sosa.
Sosa gladly took the fight with the man everyone says he crazy to face. There were plenty of other fights for Sosa, but he wanted to test himself against the very best. Further, taking this fight (for the WBO crown) cost him his WBA belt. Forget a title unification; the WBA strap was taken away for the crime of vying for a competing organization’s championship. However, Sosa was unfazed.
“This is boxing,” Sosa said. “There are times that you’re forced to do things that you actually don’t want to do. But it’s a business. We saw, as a team, that the better option was to fight Lomachenko.”
Sosa is risking everything – his budding reputation as well as the title he fought so hard to win and keep last year – for the chance to prove he can beat the best boxer in the world – at 130 pounds or anywhere else.
This is the Sosa attitude. He is a fighter. He has a tall task before him, but Sosa is ready and willing for whatever comes.
This fearless attitude, the attitude he’s shown since his start in the sport, is what sets Jason apart from the crowd. It is also an attitude that is closely aligned with that of a true Philadelphia fighter. It is this attitude, and those two excellent achievements of 2016, that will earn Jason Sosa the “Philly Fighter of the Year” award at the upcoming Briscoe Awards in October in Philadelphia – win, lose, or draw against Lomachenko.
Technically, Sosa might not be thought of as a Philly fighter by some. After all, he is from Camden, NJ. However, he was ring-raised in the City of Philadelphia and the only thing that separates him from literally being a Philly fighter is the mile or so stretch of the Ben Franklin Bridge, which connects the two cities.
“That’s awesome,” Sosa said of hearing about the Briscoe Award. “That’s great news. It’s one of the best things I’ve accomplished in my life. I’m excited to win the award.”
It is welcome news for sure, but a win over Lomachenko is the prize that Sosa truly seeks, and it is one that would finally earn him the respect that he deserves.
“We’re seeking the moment,” Sosa said. “A win over Lomachenko will put me on top and change my life. Me and my team think we’re ready for that.”
If he can do it, he will have arrived in the world of boxing. If he can’t, he’ll always have Philly, the town that launched his career and one place he’ll always be considered a champion.