This Friday, Top Rank and ESPN head to Tucson, AZ to host a card which is headlined by WBC Super Featherweight Champion Oscar Valdez (29-0) going up against the undefeated Robson Conceicao (16-0). Although there was some controversy that appeared last week in the form of a failed VADA exam by the champion, the case was discussed with all parties and the fight will go on as scheduled.
The card is filled with some good talent and one of the fights that could have headlined their own event is between WBO Flyweight Champion Junto Nakatani (21-0) and Angel Acosta (22-2). This one is for the boxing purists as most fans do not monitor the flyweight division as closely as others. Therefore, I brought on some of the sharpest boxing minds in the game, who are very familiar with these two pugilists, to weigh-in and give their prediction on this fight.
Gayle Falkenthal (CommDigiNews.com): Acosta by TKO
With a combined 45 fights, 37 of them by stoppage, I’m not going out on a limb saying this fight won’t go the distance. Nakatani appears in his first bout outside Japan taking a significant step up in opposition. Acosta will be on friendly turf but he will be without father-in-law and trainer Juan Muciño, who died earlier this summer. Acosta is now working with veteran Joel Diaz. You don’t like to see a fighter tackling his second division title with a brand new (to him) trainer, but Diaz won’t try to reinvent Acosta so early in their partnership. This should be the fight of the night Friday, and I see Acosta hanging tough like he did against Kosei Tanaka – but this time winning by an attrition stoppage by round 10 or later.
David Avila (ThePrizefighters.com): Nakatani
This fight is tough to pick for me. It’s a 50/50 fight for me in terms of whose chin is better. I know Acosta’s chin isn’t the greatest, but very unsure about Nakatani. Both have firepower. I guess I lean toward Nakatani.
Matt Andrzejewski (NyFights.com): Acosta TKO
Like many boxing fans this is a fight I have been looking forward to for some time and is the real main event of this card. Nakatani is a tall southpaw who likes to work behind the right jab and keep his range. He uses that jab to set up his lethal left hand. Acosta is a pressure fighter and will need to find a way inside that jab of Nakatini's. We all know styles make fights and this has all the makings stylistically to become quite a give and take battle. In this case give me Acosta, who is the underdog but has fought the better opposition and has been in these pitched battles before in his pro career. Acosta TKO 10.
The word that comes to mind when thinking about Junto Nakatani is “potential.” He's dynamic in the ring and his record reflects that, but he lacks the amateur and international experience in order to make him a lock as a future star. Angel Acosta is a good solid test for Nakatani at this point in the 23-year-olds’ career. Acosta is a former world titleholder with a wealth of experience and will give Nakatani looks he hasn’t seen before. Ultimately though, Acosta is undersized and is expected to lose, but style points will go a long way in diagnosing the Nakatani’s promise. I think he will live up to the hype.
Ernie Green (Niagara-Gazette.com): Nakatani by Decision
This has the potential to be a fight of the year candidate. Nakatani, while the more skilled opponent, will have to be on top of his game to defeat Acosta. I see Acosta having some early success, given Nakatani hasn’t fought in ten months. However, as the fight goes on, Nakatani will take over the fight with his speed and skill. Acosta is a tough out, so I don’t see Nakatani running though him, but I do see him winning a decision in the 8-4 range over a very game opponent.
Junto Nakatani vs. Angel Acosta is a tremendous bout on paper that has “Fight of the Year” potential written all over it. Nakatani has really emerged as one of the premier young flyweights in the sport and his power and size for his weight is something to behold after his title win last year. Acosta, on the other hand, is a tried-and-true veteran with plenty of power in his own right. I think this fight will not see the final bell, but the difference maker is Nakatani’s overall footwork and technical ability which could put him in a position to outbox Acosta and dictate the pace.
Acosta can bang away on the inside and I expect him to do so against the bigger man in Nakatani, plus the move up from 108 lbs to 112 lbs has done good for him. However, Acosta doesn’t have the greatest chin in the world and Nakatani has more than enough power and boxing acumen to put together a series of punches similar to the one that resulted in Acosta being hurt and stopped by Elwin Soto in 2019. Acosta could very well win this one, but I’m favoring the younger and bigger Nakatani to win via late stoppage.
Lee Groves (CompuBox/Ring Magazine): Nakatani by Decision
This is a very intriguing fight to me because it pits a dynamic young champion in Nakatani against a power-hitting former titlist in Acosta who is moving up in weight. Based on the videos I've seen, Nakatani is a busy fighter who relies heavily on his jab to dictate distance, and that's the fight plan he should employ against Acosta because he has advantages in height (three inches) and reach (three-and-a-half inches) and that would be the best way to limit Acosta's power-punching opportunities. It also helps Nakatani's cause that he's a left-hander, because most southpaws have the ability to neutralize the jabs of right-handers, and, in doing so, take away half of the right-handers' weaponry.
Acosta's best hope is to work his way inside Nakatani's reach and induce a brawl because Nakatani is willing to go toe-to-toe if necessary. Not only that, an inside fight would lessen Nakatani's “southpaw advantage” and would enhance Acosta's chances of turning the fight with a single bomb. Although Nakatani has a high KO percentage, his stoppages seem to be more a product of attrition while Acosta was a legitimate lights-out hitter at 108. The question is whether the Puerto Rican can be that big hitter at 112. I believe that Nakatani will smartly use his work rate and his long-range boxing to pile up points and to score a fairly comfortable points victory.
Jacob Rodriguez (NyFights.com): Acosta by TKO
In a recent interview with The Ring Magazine, Junto Nakatani said that to beat Angel Acosta he needs to fight at a distance and avoid getting hit. Given Nakatani’s significant height and reach advantage over Acosta, this is a good strategy, if Nakatani can perfectly execute it. Nakatani likes to blind his opponents using his jab to land a powerful left cross, a tactic Acosta will try to exploit.
Additionally, Nakatani tends to bend over in close exchanges leaving him vulnerable for uppercuts, a punch Giemel Magramo landed easily against Nakatani. While Nakatani’s plan is solid, Angel Acosta is a crafty veteran who will position himself within Nakatani’s reach. Once on the inside, Acosta will unload powerful combinations exploiting Nakatani’s weak defense. Nakatani will fight well in the opening rounds but will succumb to Acosta’s power. Acosta will win this fight by knockout somewhere between the 8th and 10th rounds.
Marquis Johns (BigFightWeekend.com): Acosta by TKO
WBO Flyweight champion Junto Nakatani is making his US debut and is in for a good one against former light flyweight champion Angel Acosta in the co-main event Saturday night from Tucson.
Anyone who hasn't seen Nakatani will be treated to the reigning flyweight champion looking to make a statement. He hopes to land a unification fight against WBC champion Julio Cesar Martinez. Acosta is looking to become a two-weight class champion as he arguably should still be a light flyweight titlist if it weren't for a lousy stoppage against Elwin Soto in 2019.
The key in this fight will be Acosta, and if he avoids the big shot that happened to him against Soto, which costs him in his last title defense. Nakatani will look to retain using his range at south and movement to avoid Acosta's power. This fight should steal the show Saturday night on what s looking like a stacked card despite the dark cloud over the main event.
I’m looking forward to the WBO flyweight title fight this weekend between Nakatani/Acosta ! I really think this will be the showstopping fight, and we need to forget about all this Valdez “herbal tea” drama. I have Nakatani edging out the fight for the win, but I never count the other opponents out, especially not in this weight division. I’m kind of surprised more people are not talking about Nakatani/Acosta but I know that will change after Friday night.
Panel Summary: 6-5 Nakatani
My Three Cents:
Although this fight isn’t headlining the event, boxing purists know that Junto Nakatani and Angel Acosta is the main attraction on this card. This matchup may very well be the fight of the night as both men will show why they are considered two of the top Flyweights in the world.
This one is a hard fight to pick as both men are great fighters with some natural flaws. Nakatani will be facing his most experienced fighter to date and will need to use his youth and speed to beat Acosta. As far as Angel is concerned, he needs to be patient, pick his shots well and stay away from getting into a fire fight with Nakatani. In the end, I think that Acosta uses his great ring IQ and technique to squeeze out a split decision victory.
Is Angel Acosta going to spoil the U.S debut of Junto Nakatani and become a two division champion or does the Japanese Flyweight Champion put on a dominant performance and establish himself amongst the hardcore fight fans?
Tune into ESPN+ on Friday starting at 2:30pm PST/5:30 pm EST and witness two great fighters going at it for the WBO Flyweight title.