With the delay of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics so ends Puerto Rico’s best chance of bringing home an Olympic medal for the first time this century.
The ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has prompted amateur standout Omar Rosario to concede his place in the 2020 Puerto Rico Olympic boxing team, opting to instead turn pro. The 22-year old from Caguas, P.R.—who claimed the 152-pound championship at the 2020 Olympic Trials to previously earn his place on the team—will make the transition under the guidance of manager Tim VanNewhouse from Split-T Management.
“Although I am disappointed I won’t be able to compete for Puerto Rico in the Olympics this year, I feel that I am better able to represent my country in the pros.” Rosario told BoxingScene.com of the bittersweet decision to abandon his Olympic dream. “Puerto Rico is looking for their next [pro] superstar and I am that guy.”
Rosario took up boxing at the age of seven, eager at an early age to follow in the footsteps of Miguel Cotto, the former four-division champion who remains his boxing idol as both hail from Caguas. Cotto represented Puerto Rico in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, failing to medal but going on to become one of the best boxers ever to come out of the island with world championships in four separate weight divisions over the course of a career worthy of International Boxing Hall of Fame enshrinement.
The journey for Rosario also included the Cotto family along for the ride. Miguel Cotto Sr., Cotto’s father was the first trainer for Rosario, who has captured six national championships along with the haul in the Olympic Trials amidst his amateur career of more than 200 fights.
Tokyo was well within reach for the blue-chip Boricua talent until the pandemic forced the first-ever postponement of the Summer Olympics. Tentative plans remain in place to hold the Games next summer, although even that currently remains probable at best.
Regardless of when it takes place, it will no longer include Rosario along for the ride. The decision was made among his team, including the head coach of the Puerto Rican national team.
“The Olympics are a myth right now,” notes Joe Santiago, Rosario’s current trainer. “We are going to take advantage of this time to begin Omar’s journey into the pros. He has all the right tools and physicality to become a multi-divisional world champion.”
Like his idol, Rosario will campaign in the 140-pound division to begin his career. Cotto won his first major title at that weight, eventually going on to claim world titles at welterweight (twice), junior middleweight (twice) and middleweight.
Rosario becomes the second high-profile amateur boxer this week to align himself with VanNewhouse. The news comes on the heels of Javier Martinez—the top-rated 165-pounder in the U.S. amateur program—formally signing with the Cleveland-based manager.
"I’m really excited about adding Omar to our growing roster of young talent,” notes VanNewhouse, whose growing roster of rising talent includes unbeaten pro boxers Abraham Nova, Diego Pacheco and Brian Ceballo. “He’s from a deep boxing culture in Puerto Rico that has great love and pride for the sport.
“Omar’s an outstanding talent and he can easily be described as a boxer-puncher with a beautiful, precise left hook - similar to Cotto’s when he was an amateur. With Omar’s ability and experience he has a maturity about him that should help him make a flawless transition to the professional ranks.”
One longtime dream remains very much alive as Rosario—whose older brother Jose is also an amateur standout and remains an integral part of his team—will continue to pursue higher education. He is currently enrolled at Universidad Ana G. Méndez, where he is working towards his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Finance.
Rosario should have the early foundation established for his pro career by that point, to include a strong promotional alignment. As he long hoped to bring home Puerto Rico’s first Olympic boxing medal since Daniel Santos captured Bronze in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the new goal is to prove La Isla del Encanto with its next superstar.
“I am ready and working hard every day to build a great legacy in boxing,” Rosario promises. “I know that Tim and the whole Split-T family will help me do that.
“I just want to make the people of Puerto Rico proud.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox