By Jake Donovan
At the end of 12 rounds of action with Roman Martinez, a then-unbeaten Diego Magdaleno felt like he had done enough to claim the super featherweight crown.
Instead, he left Macau, China with the first (and only) loss on his record and the understanding that he needed to make a change in his career.
Two moves have since followed: climbing up the scale to the lightweight division and enlisting the services of top trainer Joel Diaz. Magdaleno is now riding a five-fight win streak as he heads into his October 10 mandatory title challenge versus unbeaten lightweight champ Terry Flanagan.
"I don’t want to say he’s a new and improved fighter, but Diego is certainly a better fighter these days," Top Rank Vice President of Operations Carl Moretti says of the top lightweight contender. "He got a lot stronger moving up to the lightweight division. Moving to trainer Joel Diaz has been the difference. They are a great combination going into a world title fight like this one."
The championship fight takes place in Flanagan's hometown of Manchester, England, where he claimed the crowd with a injury stoppage of Jose Zepeda in June.
Magdaleno knows he won't have the crowd on his side, but is confident heading into hostile territory with present company in tow.
"My secret weapon has been my move to Joel Diaz," Magdaleno (28-1, 12KOs) insists. "Moving up to lightweight has left me feeling strong.
"In my past few fights, Joel has worked on enhancing my knockout power. I have knockouts in three of my last four fights, and all four opponents have been knocked down."
As grateful as he is for the accolades, Diaz is quick to note that a teacher is only as productive as the students are willing to learn.
"When a trainer gets a hold of a fighter, he wants to see that the fighter is ready to commit all the way," Diaz says. "That's never been an issue with Diego and I saw it from the first day. He's shown the determination.
"I told him when we first started, 'I promise you that I am going to make you a world champion.' Since he got to the gym, he's improved every day. He's ready to win this WBO world title and bring it home to the United States."
The title fight marks just the second time fighting overseas for the Las Vegas-based southpaw. His lone other trek abroad came in the aforementioned loss to Martinez.
That was in the past, though, as the 28-year old anxiously looks forward to showing the boxing world how far he's come as he returns to the title fray.
"I know I have a lot to prove also," Magdaleno acknowledges. "Since my only loss in China, I've learned a lot from that. I didn't have the right people behind me.
"I've moved forward and moved on, and have reinforced myself with Joel Diaz. It's a well-oiled machine; Joel programs me with boxing knowledge, and I take of my business."
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com.
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