The past three years have been a bittersweet roller coaster, to say the least, for professional boxer Jason Sosa.
Hailing from Camden, New Jersey, the 31-year-old, 5’5” super featherweight, whose record currently stands 22-3-4, has experienced more triumph and hardship than most of us ever see. During that time, he earned the WBA Super Featherweight World Title; mourned the loss of his sister Mayen Colon, who was shot and killed; took home a whopping $350,000 after battling the legendary Vasiliy Lomachenko; and lost the majority of his fortune after entrusting his business to a shifty friend.
Currently, with the help of promoter and Hall of Famer J Russell Peltz, who has promoted past fights at Bensalem’s Parx Casino, Sosa is looking to undo the mistakes that has left his spirit dampened by a mountain of debt. With his second child on the way, “El Canito” wants a fresh start when he takes on Haskell Lydell Rhodes for a world title on Aug. 10 at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.
“I respect money now. I know who my real friends are. I am broke,” Sosa confessed. “I know things will be different if I get another chance.”
Peltz, who has witnessed Sosa’s rise and fall, admitted a victory won’t come easily.
“Haskell Rhodes is far from a tuneup,” Peltz said. “He has a difficult style and he never has been stopped. It’s a hard fight, but if Jason wants to be champ again, he has to pass this kind of test.”
With the impending fight around the corner, Sosa said there’s more on the line than the glory of becoming a two-time world champion. He’s focused on a second chance, a chance to show he won’t end up among the slew of fighters that retired with nothing.
Sosa made his professional debut in November 2009 at Philadelphia’s Blue Horizon, knocking out Jonathan Ocasio in three rounds.
“I focused completely on boxing,” he said, reflecting on how he quit his job at a pizza restaurant to pursue the sport full-time. “I would walk to the gym. It was a long walk. I didn’t care if it were snowing, raining, whatever. I was completely dedicated.”
The next several years saw Sosa rack up nine wins, one loss and three draws. But things took a turn on Aug. 19, 2013, when a phone call at 3 a.m. from his mother changed his life forever – his sister had been killed, leaving behind two children.
“I had to be the strong one. I cried a little, but I had to let it go and focus on helping my mom. I almost lost her, mentally,” he said.
It was a month before Sosa’s next fight, which was against Tyrone Luckey. After knocking out his opponent, Sosa finally let his grief sink in, dropping to his knees in the middle of the ring and allowing the tears to flow freely.
After amassing 17 wins, one loss and four draws, Sosa received a much more welcomed call in 2016 from Peltz – he would be fighting Javier Fortuna on June 24 in Beijing, China, for the WBA Super Featherweight Championship. In an unprecedented turn of events, Sosa came out victorious, shedding his amateur title.
“Jason’s win over Fortuna rates as one of the highlights of my career for many reasons,” Peltz said. “Winning any fight overseas is big, especially one where no one gave him a chance. Plus, he was so far behind on points, he needed a knockout to win. And it came in the latter stage of my career, which was personally gratifying.”
The opportunity of a lifetime then fell into Sosa’s lap – the chance to relinquish his WBA strap and battle top fighter Vasiliy Lomachenko, who had only one loss in 397 fights as an amateur. Sosa made it to the ninth round of a scheduled 12 with Lomachenko, with the pain dulled by his $350,000 pay.
As someone who grew up in a working-class, single-parent household, Sosa vowed to be generous with his money, paying for guests at restaurants and bars and giving money to friends who asked for it.
“I tried many times to educate Jason about his money but like most fighters who hit it big, he ‘yessed’ me to death and went his own way,” Peltz said.
Shortly after the Lomachenko fight, Sosa moved to Puerto Rico, where he spent most of his childhood, and partnered with fellow boxer Mikey Perez to open Blazzin’ Hookah Bar & Grill. But just after opening, Hurricane Irma hit the island, leaving much of it without power. In the midst of keeping his $80,000 investment on its feet with a generator, Sosa was called to New York to fight Yuriorkis Gamboa at Madison Square Garden. Blazzin’ was left in the hands of a “trusted” associate.
Upon his return to Puerto Rico, Sosa found that his name had been taken off the business and license paperwork for Blazzin.’ Though stunned and upset, he quickly realized this wasn’t the worst thing.
“While I was gone, everything changed. There were people hanging out there, gangsters, people that I would never have allowed in. I was glad my name was no longer associated with it,” he said. “Someone was killed there recently. I think God is always looking out for me, because if my name had been on the business, it would have been bad for me.”
On Saturday, Sosa hopes God is still watching over him…and Rhodes. Sosa plans to enter the ring with a newfound fire, and he said Rhodes should plan accordingly. ••
If you go…
Jason Sosa fights on Saturday, Aug. 10, at 6:30 p.m., at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University, 1776 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, and live on ESPN+. The fight is promoted by Top Rank, in association with Peltz Boxing.
Tickets priced at $100, $55 and $35 (not including applicable fees), are on sale now and can be purchased at the Liacouras Center box office, at liacourascenter.com or by calling Peltz Boxing at 215-765-0922.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org