Twice a month, Tuesday Tales will feature a member of the USA Boxing community in an effort to highlight the amazing people behind what makes our organization great. Features will take a deeper look at some incredible stories from our membership. The first installment shares the story of long-time boxer and USA Boxing coach Izzy Acosta who recently returned from being a member of the Rio 2016 Olympic staff and his wife Dora Acosta.
Their love is infectious. For any one of the hundreds of lives they’ve helped - some in the ring, others in school and many more in the community - that’s a fact that remains undisputed. A key success in Israel and Dora Acosta’s marriage is one common goal. Creating opportunities for youth is the mission, and the Acostas have spent a combined 75 years serving their community.
Israel Acosta moved to Milwaukee from Puerto Rico in 1972. In an effort to stay busy and please his brother, Acosta found a passion in boxing. He started as a skilled amateur boxer, an alternate on the 1984 Olympic team who won a room full of amateur belts and titles along the way of his 12 year career. But, from the start he wasn’t solely focused on his own career. While he was training to compete, he began moonlighting as a coach to dozens of young boxers near his home. Now he’s a well-known figure in the USA Boxing community with over three decades of experience in the books along with a couple of Olympic coaching positions along the way.
“The kids see everything that Izzy has done and say wow, I can really make it to Rio or make it to the Olympics one day,” said Dora Acosta. “He’s had such success on the local, international and Olympic trial levels that it’s really an incentive for kids to do something that they see is going to help them in the future. The experience of being involved in a program like the USA Boxing program is unbelievable.”
Dora Acosta has spent her entire life caring for others. From working as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor at the UCC Community Center to transitioning into the school system, her life has never solely been her own. For more than 25 years she worked day and night to ensure her students remained on the right path as the Dean of Students for the Bruce-Guadalupe Middle School.
“Being there for them and for their families to guide them in the right direction is really important,” said Dora Acosta. “It’s an elementary and middle school but we don’t stop there. We follow them through high school and make sure they get into college so that they have a better future. For me, it was really rewarding to help guide parents in terms of their children’s education. A lot of the kids’ parents didn't even graduate from high school.”
The pair have been a dynamic duo since their first encounter in 1980. There’s a continuous stream of giggles as the couple reflects on their journey into marriage. When Dora met Israel AKA “Shorty,” she was unsure of the hype surrounding him.
“It was very interesting because when I met Izzy, everyone talked about how good of a boxer he was,” said Dora Acosta. “I thought oh my gosh that little thing how can that be. He had a competition in the U.S. against Poland that same year and I thought this is my opportunity to see how good this little guy is. I went to the fight in Indianapolis and he stopped the guy in the first minute of the first round.”
And, just like that Dora was hooked. In 1990, surrounded by family and friends, the pair wed in the place that had been a home to both of them, the UCC Community Center. And, this wedding was a sight to see. Their nuptials began as the two rang the bell to inform wedding guests that they were officially ready to be Mr. and Mrs. Acosta. Dora walked down to aisle to the theme song from Rocky, crawling through the ropes to meet her future husband as he stood smiling in the middle of a boxing ring.
“As we were exiting the ring, going under the ropes to get out, Izzy raises his arm and says ‘This is the only fight I’ve ever lost in my career,’” giggled Acosta.
To honor the couple’s efforts, the Southside Milwaukee community announced that a local school would bear their name. The UCC Acosta Middle School opened it’s doors in the Fall of 2016. A non-profit charter school, UCC Acosta fosters children from all over the Milwaukee area. More than 96 percent of the student population is comprised of Hispanic students with over 80 percent of attendees coming from low-income families.
“For us, it was just unbelievable to know that not only the Center, but also that the community appreciates the work that we do and to be recognized for it was amazing,” said Dora Acosta.
It’s clear that a paycheck has never been a motivating factor for the Acostas. The reward that’s far greater…to help keep youth off the streets and assist them in making a name for themselves in sport and school.
“It’s something that I’m really so proud to have from the community and the people and to know how much they like me,” gushed Israel Acosta. “The people know what kind of person I am and what I do with the kids. I’ve saved a lot of kids’ lives from going to the wrong place. I’m really glad that UCC has given me and my wife [the dedication] together because we’ve worked together to make this happen.”
While sharing success in the community has brought the pair together, they have one constant that keeps their marriage strong - laughter.
“We are so happy,” said Israel Acosta. “We talk and we laugh. People always ask if we ever get angry with each other. No we don’t, we prefer to laugh.”
USA Boxing encourages membership to send over any potential story ideas by email to Ablanco@USABoxing.org.