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Father’s faith keeps Acosta in the fight

Miguel Acosta was ready to walk away from boxing.

The 135-pound fighter from Venezuela was struggling early in his career, having lost three straight bouts from October 2002 to October 2003. With his record at 9-3-2, he was frustrated, and his confidence was shot at age 25. He figured he could leave the ring, go back to school, study communications and perhaps get into broadcasting.

His father, Oscar, had other ideas. He still thought his son could fight and had the talent to win a world title.

“He wouldn’t let me quit,” Acosta said through an interpreter. “It’s a humbling experience when you lose, but my father believed in me, and he told me to stay with it, that I would be world champion someday.”

Turns out father knew best. Now 32, Acosta (28-3-2, 22 knockouts) hasn’t lost since and is the reigning WBA lightweight champion. On Saturday, he makes his first title defense, against unbeaten Brandon Rios in the 12-round main event at the Palms’ Pearl Concert Theater.

The fight is Acosta’s first in Las Vegas and second in the United States. In his first one, he beat Anges Adjaho outside of Chicago in 2007 in what he called a breakthrough fight in his career.

“When I won that fight, it showed me what was possible,” Acosta said. “That’s when I knew I could be a champion.”

In 2009, he knocked out Urbano Antillon to win the WBA interim belt. He then won the WBA world title May 29 with a sixth-round knockout of Paulus Moses, making Oscar Acosta look like Nostradamus.

“I think more than anything, he wasn’t mentally ready,” said Oscar Acosta, a former amateur boxer who manages and trains his son. “He wasn’t quite mature enough. I knew he had the physical skills to be successful, and once we connected in the mental aspect, he would be fine.”

Oscar Acosta said his son’s career began to surge when he stopped thinking negatively.

“We used positive mental reinforcement,” he said. “We had to make him believe he was good enough to be a world champion.”

In Rios (26-0-1, 18 KOs), Acosta will face his biggest challenge since winning the title.

“I trained exceptionally hard for this fight,” he said. “I did a lot of sparring with bigger guys to get ready because Brandon Rios is a big puncher. But he will see that I can also punch.”

Because Acosta has fought mainly in South America, he is not well known to the average American fight fan. He throws punches from a variety of angles and has good boxing skills. He can move and defend himself. He has beaten three previously undefeated fighters in his past eight fights.

“The opportunity hasn’t been there for me to become well known in America,” he said. “But now it is here, and I want to show everyone how good I am. In Venezuela, everyone knows me. But it has always been my dream to fight in Las Vegas, and I want to come back many times.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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