As a heavy underdog, Jason Sosa traveled to Beijing, China to challenge Javier Fortuna for the WBA World super featherweight championship. Sosa and his team devised a strategy to win the title by making this a battle of attrition. They were looking at winning the long game as a means of achieving success in their quest for a world title. This approach included attempting to cut off the ring in the hopes of making Fortuna uncomfortable while at the same time making the champion work every minute of every round.
Sosa entertained writers at the Victory Boxing Gym in Cherry Hill, New Jersey for a media day workout, followed by the trip to Beijing the next day, one week ahead of his shot at the belt. Upon Sosa’s return, we met again at his hometown gym to find out how he was able to score the upset.
Prior to heading overseas for the fight, stablemate Tevin Farmer acted as a stand-in for Fortuna. Farmer, also a natural 130-pounder is matching skills with lightweight Ivan Redkach on July 30th at Barclay’s Center on the Santa Cruz-Frampton undercard. Farmer sheds some light on how he helped prepare Sosa for this opportunity.
“I knew Fortuna was a southpaw so I knew I’m probably the best southpaw sparring partner in the world he could have. I cut everything out of my life and dedicated everything to Jason. I knew this was a big opportunity for him and wanted him to be ready for anything coming his way. I came every day and pushed him in and out of sparring. I pushed Jason to his limit and it showed in the fight.”
Sosa, 28, discusses how he was able to stay poised throughout most of the contest and execute his team’s goals.
“We went in there with a game plan. The way that I fight and the type of fighter that I am, I wait for my opportunity. We set fighters up. We’re known for knocking people out, not for outscoring people. The fans want to see a knockout. The plan for the first few rounds was we were feeling him out to get comfortable in the ring, with the crowd, and with his style of fighting. When I saw an opening, I was going to take it. It was more of we were there to do our job and win the world title. That’s what we did.”
Trainer Raul “Chino” Rivas offers up his blueprint for how they were able to be successful in this tilt.
“We knew that Fortuna was going to use his speed, lateral movement, and move side to side. We also knew that he would show fatigue after the sixth round. We pressured, pressured, and pressured. We forced him into a fight and that’s when we were able to land power shots. The game plan worked to perfection.”
Rivas was able to improve Sosa’s chances with these in-fight adjustments: “I eliminated the jab. Maybe six or seven times when Jason got lazy with the jab, Javier was able to counter with the left hook. Jason doesn’t have a snappy jab, he has a jab that he pushes. A jab with a leftie, you’re going to lose that battle. You’re going to get hit with the right hook. I just decided we’re going to hook because we have the upper hand. That became our game plan early on.”
The bout started out with Fortuna using his boxing skills to outpoint Sosa over the first half of the fight. Sosa had his moments in the third where he was able to land. In the fifth, the reigning champion scored a flash knockdown by landing with the left hand. Sosa believes he wound up on the canvas due to their feet getting tangled up. Sosa started getting closer and was more effective in forcing Fortuna to work in round seven. Then, the big sea change occurred in the eighth, according to Rivas.
“In the eighth round, Javier stops moving and starts being more of a steady target and that’s when Jason started landing his shots. Jason was really able to cut the distance. That’s when I told my second, now we got him. I told Jason to stay focused and stay strong defensively. I told him to use the angles to stop the corner shots and when he turns, you turn. Don’t let him turn you. We were able to penetrate. Then you can finish. I told him now we can step it up, now we can put on pressure to use the right hand and the left hook.”
Sosa also noticed the ring conditions were a factor at this point in this contest.
“The ring was soft and that surprised me. That’s something you have to train for. It prevents a boxer from running too much. The floor was so soft that it takes a lot of fatigue out of your footwork. That ring is better for me because I am more slow with my footwork.”
The ninth saw Fortuna continuing to trade frequently. He was showing signs of being drained as Sosa was all too happy to engage as the fight moved to a different stage. The 10th featured the Camden, New Jersey native scoring a knockdown over the unbeaten titleholder. The challenger remembers the stanza vividly.
“We knew he was going to slow down. My trainer said he was only going to have so much in the tank, that he always slows down in the end. It was a matter of time and that’s what happened. Our game plan was perfect. (In the 10th) I hurt him with a body shot that started it. He actually then stood up. I was told by his trainer and team that that was the shot that put him down.”
After the knockdown, in the corner before the 11th round, Rivas offered sound advice for Sosa.
“I told Jason to stay with the game plan, be patient and use the hook. Whoever Jason hits with the right, sooner or later you are going down. I told him that Javier is done and we’re going to finish him right now. We’re attacking. I said to Jason, ‘Do you understand that?’ He said he did. I told him if he grabs you, don’t let him hold you, like you just did in the 10th round. He has no more legs so we’re not leaving it up to the judges. This is our fight to lose now. He said, ‘I got you.’ He went out and did what he had to do.”
Sosa recalls the bout ending this way.
“It was an overhand right to stop him in his tracks, then a left hook, then another right hook, and I finished him off with a left hook. I knew that was it. This is every boxer’s dream to fight for a world title and I didn’t want to let people down. I just had to finish my job.”
Fortuna did get up after landing on the canvas, but referee Raul Caiz Jr. deemed him unfit to continue. The official time of the stoppage was at 45 seconds of the 11th round. At the time of the TKO, all three judges had Fortuna ahead by scores of 96-91, 95-92, and 94-93. Fortuna was making the second defense of his title.
Rivas shares a very personal story of what happened immediately after Sosa became champion: “I look at Jason and tell him, ‘I told you you could do it.’ He looks at me and started crying. He tells me, ‘You’re the best.’ We celebrated, the moment was priceless. It was something that I will never forget. I had almost the same feeling in a different perspective when my daughter was born. The excitement, the joy for him was real.”
Rivas offers his take on coming from behind and winning the belt: “I knew Jason was the better, stronger fighter and we were going to get him eventually. We discussed if we were to have a chance to knock him out, it would be between the eighth and the 12th. We were prepared for that. For a lot of people, it may have been a shock. Now we have to honor and defend this title with pride and dignity and show the world who we really are. This wasn’t just a lucky shot. We deserved this and we are going to be here long-term.”
With the win “El Canito” improves to 19-1-4 and claims the WBA super featherweight crown. Having fought 11 times in Pennsylvania and six times in New Jersey, Sosa has developed a local following. The win was a culmination of hard work, difficult matches and questionable scoring, all of which made the victor appreciate his triumph even more.
“When I held the belt in my hands, I thought about a lot of things. First, this was my trainer’s dream, as well as mine. It came from Camden, NJ and really meant a lot for a lot of people. Right when I came back from China, I went right to the Puerto Rican day Parade in Camden. The support from the fans was amazing.”
Sosa wants to challenge all comers in the super featherweight division. He believes that he can have a successful reign and unify the titles.
“I want to fight the best because we train to fight the best. I want to fight people that have world titles. We do want to fight Lomachenko, Salido, and Vargas. People want to see great fights like this. We’ve taken fights that haven’t made sense before. Now, we’re the world champion. We’re number one in the world. It’s time to make Jason Sosa happy. Jason Sosa earned it.”
Before Sosa can make any of those fights happen, he has been mandated to fight WBA Super World super featherweight champion, Jezreel Corrales, who defeated Takashi Uchiyama in April for the belt.
Before that bout is scheduled, Sosa is going to take some time and appreciate the fact the he is now a world champion.
“A lot of people doubted me. I only had three amateur fights. A lot of people wanted to see me lose or a lot of people were thinking that I was going to lose. To actually accomplish it to this day, I am still shocked. I don’t blame them because I am still shocked. Jason Sosa—you’re a world champion. I don’t know when the moment is going to sink in.”
This article was penned by the author who is not related to the WBA and the statements, expressions or opinions referenced herein are that of the author alone and not the WBA.