With all of the craziness surrounding this week’s boxing event in Tucson, the one constant that has remained is the potential for Junto Nakatani and Angel Acosta to steal the show.
If nothing else, the level of responsibility has increased for the pair of flyweights who meet with Nakatani’s WBO title at stake. The bout takes place this Friday, live on ESPN+ from AVA Amphitheater at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona, the childhood hometown of Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23KOs) who defends his WBC junior lightweight title versus Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Gold medalist Robson Conceicao (16-0, 8KOs) in the main event on ESPN and its platforms.
“My focus is on Angel ‘Tito’ Acosta, but it is flattering to know so many fans are looking forward to our fight,” Nakatani told BoxingScene.com ahead of his first title defense and U.S. debut. “This fight is a great way to prove myself to all the new fans I plan to make in the U.S.”
Nakatani (21-0, 16KOs) fights for the first time outside of his native Japan, along with his first bout since winning the WBO flyweight title in an eighth-round knockout of Giemel Magramo last November. The bout with Puerto Rico’s Acosta (22-2, 21KOs) comes after several delays, but as the sleeper pick among Friday’s nine-fight card.
It also has the chance to serve as the feel-good story of the night in light of the events surrounding the evening’s headliner. Valdez had to be cleared by the presiding Pascua Yaqui Tribe Athletic Commission and the WBC in order to move forward with Friday’s title defense after testing positive for trace amounts of Phentermine from an August 13 drug test as collected by testers contracted through Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA).
The topic has dominated headlines for all of the wrong reasons, though the sport’s most ardent supporters continue to focus on the flyweight title fight that graces the undercard. Nakatani is all action in the ring, while Acosta—a former WBO junior flyweight titlist— has seen just two pro bouts go to the scorecards while almost never in a bad fight.
“I expect it to be a great fight and I’m honored that so many boxing experts do as well,” notes Nakatani.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox