By Jake Donovan
As stunning as was Elwin Soto’s unlikely junior flyweight title win on Friday, there wasn’t anyone as shocked or outraged as was the man whom he dethroned.
Angel Acosta saw his thrilling title reign come to a crashing—and controversial—halt following his 12th round stoppage loss to Mexico’s Soto in their entertaining thriller Friday evening at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif.
The lean knockout artist from Puerto Rico was down in round three, but managed to not only recover but reclaim the lead in a big way after his rough start. All three judges had Acosta ahead at the time of the stoppage— 107-101, 106-102 and 105-103—to where he just had to remain on his feet in order to register his fourth successful title defense.
A left hook to the temple from Soto (15-1, 11KOs) challenged that goal, with Acosta briefly stunned and pinned along the ropes but seemingly alert when referee Thomas Taylor jumped into stop bout 0:23 into the 12th and final round.
“I’m disappointed with the stoppage,” stated Acosta (20-2, 20KOs), who vehemently protested the stoppage in the ring. “Yes, he hurt me, but I was able to continue. I’m just disappointed in losing my title this way.”
Even had Acosta suffered a knockdown in the frame, he still would have prevailed by majority decision. Of course, it’s not the referee’s job to protect a fighter’s lead but rather his well-being, with Taylor perhaps erring on the side of caution.
It’s just how Acosta’s team will view it.
“Unbelievable,” was all that Miguel Cotto, the legendary former four-division champ and Acosta’s current promoter would utter of how the fight played out, as his company will likely file a petition for a rematch with the World Boxing Organization (WBO), whose belt Acosta has held since a Dec. 2017 knockout win over Juan ‘Pinky’ Alejo.
Three successful defenses followed, all ending in knockout as has each of his 20 career wins to date. The lone distance fight came in his first career defeat, a 12-round decision at the hands of the excellent Kosei Tanaka in May 2017.
Acosta still maintains a perfect knockout to win ratio but would have gladly settled for an end to that streak if it meant leaving the ring with his belt.
Some will call for an official protest of the stoppage. However, in-ring judgment calls are rarely overturned by commissions or sanctioning bodies, absent a foul being missed by the referee which wasn’t the case here.
The more realistic approach would be to request an immediate rematch, which sanctioning bodies have rewarded under less controversial circumstances. Whatever method is required to make it—or any title opportunity—happen next will be fine with the now former titlist.
“I would really like a rematch,” insists Acosta. “If not, then I want to go after the other current champions.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox