The heat from the oven would waft over his face each time he opened the door and slid another pizza in to be cooked. Jason Sosa did it six days a week, for about 12 hours a day. It was monotonous work, and it was taxing. His feet would swell. The days would drone forward, and he’d try to occupy his head with anything but where he was, making pizza by instinct. He worked in such proximity to the oven that he was constantly drenched in sweat.
Sosa was already two years out of high school then, and figured if he was going to sweat at work, why not make it worth his while. Why not take up something that always teased his curiosity. Why not take up boxing?
Photo by: Lawrence Lustig
So, at the relatively ripe old age of 20, Sosa took up the sport and in nine years has become one of boxing’s most surprising practitioners, going from unsung opponent in 2015 to winning the WBA 130-pound title last year. On Saturday, April 8, at The Theater at MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, he’ll be taking on the man many believe is the best junior lightweight in the sport (and some believe is already the best boxer, pound for pound, in the world), Ukrainian amateur legend Vasyl Lomachenko (7-1, 5 knockouts). The fight will be the main event of a live HBO broadcast.
Sosa (20-1-4, 15 KOs) is very aware of his chances in the minds of others. But he also knows the toil it took him to reach this point.
“You work making pizzas all day, it starts to make you think that there is always something better, always something more out there than working at a pizza store,” Sosa recalled. “It’s why I took up boxing. I was always athletic and good at every sport that I played. Thinking about that kept me going, and out of nowhere, I went to gym one morning and that’s where it started.
“Now look at me today. I’ll be fighting on national TV, on HBO, this kid who used to make pizzas all day. No one expects me to win. I know that reality. I love it. I love being the underdog, because I’ve been an underdog my whole life. The pressure, the way I see it, is on Lomachenko. He doesn’t know that much about me. No one does, because I’m still learning the sport. I haven’t shown everything that I can really do in the ring. The world better get ready for a surprise April 8.”
The key, Sosa said, will be getting Lomachenko out of his comfort zone and beating him to everything he likes to do. Lomachenko has been “Lomachenko for a very long time, and nothing has changed,” Sosa stressed. “Every one of my fights there is a different Jason Sosa, so I am very excited to see what Jason Sosa comes out on April 8. A new version of me.
“Lomachenko has great skills, I won’t argue that. But he hasn’t changed. We know he can take a hell of a shot. I just have to watch for his skills and his talent and be prepared. We know what he’s going to do. There really are no surprises there with him. That’s the advantage that I think I have, because I can throw a surprise in there.”
Sosa has been training in Puerto Rico, in great weather, as opposed to the frigid conditions in Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey areas (where he’s from). He’s been getting road work in the mountain regions of Puerto Rico, and says this is the best training camp he’s ever had.
Chino Rivas, Sosa’s trainer, says the pressure is on Lomachenko. No one apparently wants to fight him, and Sosa gave up the WBA belt to do so. [Editor’s note: Sosa held the “regular” version of the WBA’s 130-pound, which is not recognized by THE RING.]
“When I got the call from Top Rank, we jumped at the chance, though unfortunately, we had to give up our title,” Rivas said. “The WBA was mandating us to fight Jezreel Corrales, which I had no problem with, but they wanted us to go to Panama, and he’s from Panama. It was a no-brainer. Why go over there, when we can fight someone like Lomachenko here, so we took it. [Editor’s note: Jezreel Corrales holds the WBA’s “super” 130-pound title and is recognized by THE RING as that sanctioning organization’s junior lightweight champion.]
“This is what happens. People want to analyze. You have someone who was a two-time Olympic champion and considered the best amateur in history. He beat Nicholas Walters. I can understand why people feel the way they feel. Then you see Jason, a kid from Camden who didn’t start boxing until he was 20 and is placed on the biggest stage of his life. Honestly, at the end of the day, we want to prove a point.”
There is respect there, Rivas points out about Lomachenko. But if Sosa stays focused and stays with the game plan that Rivas has devised, he has a chance.
“The world is going to be very surprised when they see all of the things Jason can do,” Rivas said. “We’re two weeks ahead of where we should be in training camp. This isn’t going to be easy. But we will be ready for anything Lomachenko has. We’re going to make some believers on April 8. Jason is still learning and he’s eager to get better and prove all of the critics wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.”
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Source:: The Ring – Boxing