Mark E. Ortega

Younger Magdaleno maintains focus while title shot looms for big brother


Less than a week from Saturday, Jessie Magdaleno will head on an expedition to Macau, where he hopes to witness his 130-pound older brother win his first major title. Junior lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno takes on WBO titleholder Roman Martinez in a fight that will be televised by HBO2 in the afternoon as part of a special “night” of boxing, and as usual with the Magdaleno brothers, Jessie will be along for the ride.

But first things first, the younger, and according to many, the more talented Magdaleno brother has his own business to take care of. The 21-year old junior featherweight prospect fights journeyman Carlos Fulgencio on Saturday’s Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov undercard where he is expected to get a quick and impressive victory.

Having turned pro just more than two years ago, Jessie (13-0, 9 knockouts) has been sort of fast-tracked through the early part of his career, having made his first major televised appearance last December, impressively dominating once-beaten Jonathan Arrellano over eight rounds on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.

The 122-pound division is loaded with rich, young talent, particularly on the West Coast where San Ardo, Calif.’s Roman Morales and Coachella, Calif.’s Randy Caballero have climbed the ranks in recent years with numerous televised appearances to their credit. Magdaleno has something over both of those young fighters – he beat both of them in the amateurs and if you ask Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman how he’d fare against them as pros if they were to fight tomorrow, there’s no doubt history would repeat itself.

“Any one of those guys, we’d fight right now,” said Goodman in a phone conversation with RingTV on Tuesday. “Jessie beat Arrellano worse than Morales did, and if Gary Shaw (Morales’ promoter) or Golden Boy (Caballero’s) wanted to make those fights right now, we’d take them.”

Goodman wanted to make it clear that Magdaleno and Top Rank weren’t calling out either of those fighters, just that they have loads of confidence that their fighter is the goods and the cream of the crop when it comes to good, young 122-pound talent.

Though it is older brother Diego who is now entering the world title picture, many boxing insiders have said the younger brother is the more naturally gifted of the two. Goodman agrees, though with a bit of grain of salt.

“Jessie has a ton of ability,” said Goodman. “I wish he had the same dedication as Diego. Diego has to work a little bit harder, but him working so hard is what makes him successful. If he really dedicated himself as much as his brother, Jessie would be even better than he is right now.”

Though it is incorrect to say that any fighter has it easy, it has been to Jessie’s benefit being able to follow in his brother’s footsteps since entering the paid ranks.

“When he first turned pro, I was still in the amateurs, making my mark there after he already did,” said Jessie on Tuesday to RingTV.

“After I won nationals and everything and I turned pro, he was already NABF champion. After that, it opened doors for me and definitely made my life easier. Everybody is noticing both of us. Now that he is fighting for the world title, more doors are opening for him and when my day comes it’ll be easier for me.”

Jessie admits that he and his older brother are quite competitive, so much so in fact that the two stopped sparring with each other early on.

“We sparred years ago when he first turned pro,” recalled Jessie.

“We’re just really highly competitive with each other. When one of us landed a good shot you knew the other one was gonna come back. We were just too competitive, so we would rather be competitive with other people.”

It doesn’t mean that the two aren’t still trying to one-up each other. Though Jessie has heard people call him the more talented of the two, he gives Diego all the credit in the world for where he is at.

“We push each other to the limit, no matter what it is,” said Jessie.

“Most people that say that (I’m more talented), I don’t pay attention to it. People say that because most of my fights have been early knockouts. I know it took him a little time to progress. But from the day I started boxing, I learned everything from my brother. Everything I know, I learned from Diego. Even today, he corrects me on stuff.”

What Jessie also has working in his favor is an extremely fan-friendly style marked by his aggressiveness. He isn’t afraid to get hit in order to get inside, and his relentless pressure has broken down his modest opposition almost with ease. Though his opponent Fulgencio (19-9-1, 12 KOs) poses no real threat to his progress, Jessie maintains his focus and isn’t overlooking him.

“I know he is a solid guy, I know he has a good record but I also know he’s been knocked out a couple times.” said Jessie regarding his journeyman opponent.

“We’re putting our work into it, we’re gonna use our speed, our power and try and take him out in the early rounds. Still, I don’t like to look past any opponent.”

That Jessie has maintained his focus in preparation for his fight on Saturday is impressive. Just a few days after he fights, he will board a plane along with the Magdaleno clan to Macau, where his brother faces by far his toughest challenge in two-time titlist Roman Martinez, who has been in with world-rated opposition for a number of years now.

“I’m not going to be fighting on his card, but I will be out there showing support for my brother,” said Jessie. “This is the opportunity we have been waiting for and we always talked about winning world titles when we were younger, so it is great for one of us to be close.”

The way the younger Magdaleno brother has advanced in just more than a few years has many thinking he isn’t that far behind Diego when it comes to challenging for, and winning, world titles. But as he has seen first-hand with his older brother, it is all about taking it one step at a time.



Photo / Jeff Bottari-Getty Images

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