The USA Boxing Alumni Association will host “Kickoff to the Junior Olympics,” highlighted by honoring Israel “Izzy” Acosta for his half-century in amateur boxing as a boxer and coach, Sunday, June 23 (6 p.m. CDT start), in Wisconsin at the Madison Marriott West Hotel (Atrium).
The festivities will mark the start of the 2019 National Junior Olympics, June 23-28, at the same venue. This event is free to all members of USA Boxing attending the event, with USA Boxing Alumni members having access to a special VIP area that will include appetizers and cash bar.
Acosta moved from Puerto Rico to Milwaukee in 1970. His older brother made it clear from the start that he wasn’t going to hang around with others doing nothing. He and Izzy registered at the United Community Center (UCC) to participate in its athletic program. There, a former Cuban boxing champion, Miguel Lassus, was impressed watching Izzy workout out, spar and hit the heavy bag. Lassus asked Izzy if he wanted to learn how to box and from that point on, Izzy trained in the gym every day after school. A few months later, he was prepared for competition.
Acosta went on to capture gold medals at the 1977 National AAU Championship in the flyweight division and the 1984 National Golden Gloves Championship as a light flyweight. Although he failed to qualify for the USA Olympic Boxing Team, he was selected as an alternate on the 1984 Olympic squad.
“I had so many proud moments throughout my amateur career, getting to the Olympic Box-Off in 1984, and being close to making the Olympic team,” Acosta remembered. “I was blessed and had won gold at other international competitions.”
Despite being a top amateur boxer, Acosta turned down the opportunity to turn pro, dedicating the rest of his life to coaching youths. He was a member of the 2000 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Team’s coaching training staff, assembling a dedicated team of assistant coaches and parents to help instill dedication, perseverance and character in young boxers.
“The reason I never turned pro was, as a light flyweight boxer, it meant that I would probably need to leave the United States and move to countries where competition in lighter weight classes is more popular like Japan, China or Mexico,” Izzy explained. “I wasn’t very interested in dealing with the ins and outs of the professional arena.
“I found satisfaction in representing the USA and traveling the world with Team USA. Furthermore, youth at the United Community Center were inspired by my accomplishments as an amateur. I saw myself as a role model to them and got them involved in the boxing program, keeping those kids off the streets, as well.”
USA Boxing has played a major role in Acosta’s life, in and out of the ring, for the past 50 years. “USA Boxing has been like a second family to me,” the 66-year-old admits. “The organization has offered me the opportunity to compete and coach at an elite level. The many lessons learned as a member of Team USA as a boxer and coach have been absolutely meaningful and have helped me grow as an individual.”
As much as Acosta accomplished in the ring as an amateur boxer, he’s had even more of an impact as a coach. In fact, the new UCC/Acosta Middle School was named in recognition of more than 75 years of combined service to the United Community Center between Izzy and his wife, Dora, who worked at UCC from 1980 until her retirement in 2012. She was the Dean of Students of K-8 Bruce Guadalupe Community School, which is a program of UCC.
“I have been part of the United Community Center since 1972 until the present,” Izzy concluded. “I started as a youth participant and then I became coach of the boxing program, helping hundreds of youth and families to create better lives, and to value the importance of a strong education. I’m proud to have made a positive impact in the lives of young people.”
“Izzy’s commitment to service and development of future champions serves as a great example for all USA Boxing Alumni,” said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director. “His track record of excellence both in and out of the ring is something that we are very proud of, and we look forward to honoring him at the Junior Olympics kick-off event on June 23.”
On June 23, Izzy Acosta will receive a much deserved honor for his 50 years of service in amateur boxing, a truly remarkable achievement by any standard.