|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - September 28, 2015
In the Philly area, Jason Sosa, the Camden, NJ junior lightweight, has been a fighter to watch for some time now. His busy, powerful and fan-friendly style has been attracting local fans for years. However, in the past year or so, the Puerto Rican puncher has excelled, stepping up the level of his competition and still managing to keep an impressive knockout streak going strong. With a new Top Rank deal recently inked, Sosa is on the brink of landing a big fight that could put him in line for a shot at a world title belt.
Friday night, Sosa, 17-1-3, 13 KOs, meets Mexican Jorge Pazos, 14-8-1, 8 KOs, in the main event of night of fights at South Philly’s 2300 Arena being branded as the “First Annual Philadelphia Puerto Rican Boxing Classic”. The seven-bout card has been stacked with local Puerto Rican talent in hopes of beginning a new tradition for the fight-hungry Puerto Rican market in and around Philadelphia.
“It’s the first Philadelphia Puerto Rican Classic event,” Sosa said. “It feels good to be the main event. It’s something big and something new they’re starting here in Philadelphia. It’s a big deal and I’m honored.”
It didn’t matter to fans that Sosa’s career started slowly. Although just 4-1-3, 1 KO, in his first eighteen months as a pro, Sosa always came to fight and put on a show. In doing so, he became popular with the hardcore fight fans. In his ninth start, Sosa began a thirteen-fight winning streak that not only still lives, it made the down-to-Earth boxer a contender.
With virtually no amateur experience under his belt, Sosa learned on the job and steadily improved. Much of his competition was well-picked to help him develop. However before long, Sosa started knocking off better and better foes.
In April 2014, Sosa, crushed Michael Brooks in Atlantic City. Brooks had only been previously defeated by Karl Dargan - and that was by decision. Sosa’s frightening knockout of Brooks proved that Jason’s power was for real and made the resounding statement that the Camden boxer was to be taken seriously. Sosa knocked off four more foes before stepping into the ring last month with fringe contender Jerry Belmontes in Puerto Rico.
Belmontes was on a losing streak when they met, but he had been fighting top-shelf talent and had never been knocked out. That distinction disappeared in a hurry, thanks to Jason Sosa. Sosa overwhelmed “The Corpus Christi Kid” in just 2:39.
In Philly, we thought Sosa would win the fight. But by first round KO? No way. Sosa was fighting for Top Rank for the first time and was on a mission to impress. He did exactly that.
“It was a big deal,” Sosa said of his quick win over Belmontes. “I said to my trainer, Chino Rivas, before the fight, ‘he’s going to go out in the first round’. He didn’t believe me. I’m put in the position that I have to impress people. I have to impress promoters. I have to impress fans. And me being Puerto Rican, in Puerto Rico, what’s the big deal? The fans are tremendous there. I’m not saying the fans aren’t tremendous here, they are tremendous here as well. But it’s a different environment in Puerto Rico. You fight in front of thousands of people in a venue that could be anywhere, but the support that we get over there, is a big deal. I was honored, man.”
With the win, Sosa moved on to preparation for Friday’s match, a headlining slot on maybe the most-publicized boxing show in recent memory. The Puerto Rican Boxing Classic is said to be the first installment of an annual tradition, and Sosa was a natural choice to be the star of this inaugural edition. His opponent, Jorge Pazos, is a bit of a mystery. Even Sosa says he doesn’t know much about him.
“Just his name, and that he’s from Mexico,” Sosa said. “At the end of the day, I trust my trainer – with my life. And at the end of the day, if he says I’m ready for this guy, then we fight this guy.”
This guy, Pazos, has been testing rising prospects over the past two years, and he hasn’t been doing so well. He’s lost his last five and seven of his last ten. However, he fits the bill for this fight. Pazos is a come-forward fighter from Mexico. The spotlight bout on the Puerto Rican Classic just had to be a ‘Puerto Rico versus Mexico’ matchup. Puerto Rico and Mexico have one of the great rivalries in the sport. So this fight plays into the goals of the “Classic”, and it makes great sense for Sosa. On paper, it looks like another knockout for the streaking fighter.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, at 130 I’ve got tremendous power,” Sosa said. “I don’t go there thinking I’m going to knock my opponent out. If it comes, it comes, but we train for every round. At the end of the day, if the knockout comes, it is what it is.”
But will Jason be disappointed if the KO doesn’t come on Friday?
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Sosa said with a laugh. “Maybe a little bit. But the most important thing to do is to walk out of there victorious.”
“It’s going to end sometime,” promoter J Russell Peltz said of Sosa’s KO run. “And you don’t want him to start thinking that when he hits a guy, the guy’s going to fall down. So I don’t care (if it continues).”
In the big picture, a win is more important than a knockout, but knockouts sell. Nothing creates buzz for a fighter like an endless stream of KOs.
“The KO streak is going, and I hope it does keep going,” Sosa said. “But we want to fight and come out victorious.”
“He can punch, Peltz said. “It doesn’t matter what weight class you’re in. If you can punch, people will want to see you, and you’re going to make money.”
Sosa’s recent career traction feels very real. He’s worked quietly and steadily right under our noses, and suddenly he seems on the brink of a real breakthrough.
It actually does feel like that,” Sosa said. “I can sense it. I can feel it.”
Sosa is quick to credit his team for his success.
“You’ve got a guy who had three amateur fights,” Sosa said. “Nobody expected to see me where I’m at right now. It’s hard work and dedication, and it’s having one of the best trainers in my corner. As soon as we started with Russell Peltz… You know, he is a Hall of Famer. He’s a great person, a great human being, and it’s an honor to have him as co-promoter. He is one of the best. He has the best fights out there, and what he did with me… now I’m signed with the biggest promoter in boxing.”
Signing with Top Rank truly puts Sosa on track to vie for the upper level of the 130-pound division.
“It’s a dream come true,” Sosa said. “I know a lot of people that would love to be signed with Top Rank right now. I’ve got the best promoter in the world (Top Rank), and the best co-promoter I believe, Russell Peltz. I’m blessed. I’m honored to be family with Top Rank.”
However, Sosa is not in a rush. He’s a blue collar guy that knows that these things take time.
“It comes down to Top Rank, my promoter, and my co-promoter,” Sosa said. “I’m just going to stay humble like I was. Laying back, waiting for some opportunity to come. There’s a lot of good fighters out there. I’m just being patient. I’m rolling with the punches.”
Still with all of his success, Sosa must have thoughts about where he’s going.
“I don’t have an exact time or day when I’ll be world champion,” Sosa said. “But we do have a plan, and that is to be world champion in three weight divisions. Hopefully my time will come sooner than later, but it’s not my call. It’s whenever they think I’m ready, and I’m okay with that. I can be humble. I was humble enough to wait for one of the top guys to pick me up, and I can be humble enough to wait for my opportunity to come.”
ALSO ON THE CARD
“He fought a few guys that I know,” Sparrow said. “Southpaw. Shouldn’t be hard. He’s the opponent. He’s coming in here with three losses. He is what he is, a solid opponent. I’m going to do just what I do. Actually, I’m looking for the stoppage. I don’t think he’s on my level at all.”
Rodriguez, who is coming down to the lightweight division for the fight, doesn’t see it the same way.
“I don’t know much about Avery Sparrow,” Rodriguez said. “I haven’t seen his fights. Do know he’s fast. He’s a mobile fighter. So we’ve been getting a lot of sparring with people that can emulate his style with the counter punching. Nothing I haven’t seen yet. It’s definitely a test for both of us. More for him.”
Another interesting fight figures to be the six-rounder between undefeated junior middleweight Ismael Garcia, 8-0, 4 KOs, Vineland, NJ, and North Philadelphian Fred Jenkins, Jr., 9-2, 3 KOs. Jenkins is coming off a points loss, but is clearly the best fighter Garcia has faced thus far. However, Garcia is looking to seize the opportunity.
“I’ve been training hard getting ready for it,” Garcia said. “It’s a big show, big exposure. The First Annual Puerto Rican Classic. Hopefully it is the first of many. I want to take advantage of it and put on a nice show for everybody. We’re trying to go in on Friday night and make a statement. Philly has a huge Puerto Rican fan base, and me being Puerto Rican, I’d be a fool not to try to tap into that.”
Early in the evening, Northeast Philly junior welterweight, Scott Kelleher, 1-0, 1 KO, will seek his second professional win against winless Alberto Manukyan, 0-2, of Union City, NJ. Kelleher impressed last month in Atlantic City with his debut. Friday night, he looks to build on the momentum of that first round knockout win.
“I’m very excited,” Kelleher said. “I’m fighting in front of my family, my friends. I’m looking to show them what I can do and looking to put on a great performance.”
There are seven total bouts on Friday night, with fan-favorite Victor Vasquez in a six rounder, and an anticipated rematch between David Gonzalez and Ryan Belasco, who fought to a six-round draw in the same arena in May.