By Jake Donovan
It wasn’t the ending Jessie Magdaleno hoped for, but the final result at least kept alive his hopes of becoming a two-division titlist.
The former super bantamweight title claimant picked up his second straight win following a technical decision win over Mexico’s Rafael Rivera.
Scores were 89-81 (twice) and 88-82 in their featherweight bout Saturday evening at the first-ever boxing card at Banc of California Stadium on USC campus in Los Angeles, Calif.
“I felt strong I felt better than ever,” Magdaleno (27-1, 18KOs) told ESPN’s Crystina Poncher after the bout. “I took off the ring rust and fought smart. We put on our boxing shoes and outboxed him.”
The bout came five months after Las Vegas’ Magdaleno outpointed Rico Ramos in a largely forgettable affair other than returning to the win column. It was his first ring appearance in 11 months, having lost his 122-pound title in his first defense versus Isaac Dogboe last April.
In Rivera, he had an opponent who has been known to be a handful for any featherweight in the world. He showed in the opening round the positive effects of a full training camp for a fight of this magnitude. The divisional gatekeeper has suffered all three career losses in assignments he accepted on short notice, including a 12-round defeat to reigning featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz this past February.
The Tijuana native was at full strength here, to which Magdaleno can attest after absorbing several straight right hand shots. The former titlist turned it around in round two, working his way inside to smother Rivera’s punches while getting off his left hands and right hooks.
Magdaleno remained in control in round three, but already showing signs of hesitance as was the case in his pedestrian 10-round win over Rico Ramos five months ago.
Action heated up in round four, interestingly after a headbutt left Magdaleno with a cut over his eye. The sequence motivated Rivera—despite being warned for the accidental foul—to pick up the pace and control the action for the remainder of the round.
Referee Thomas Taylor was forced to once again intervene in round five, although his handling of consecutive blows to the back of Magdaleno’s head deserves to be called into question. With the two fighting at close quarters, Rivera attempted a right hand which caught the base of Magdaleno’s skull. It was immediately followed up by an inadvertent elbow, which barely drew a warning from the referee who instead urged an enraged Magdaleno to keep his cool and continue to fight.
The second half saw Magdaleno surge ahead, working Rivera’s body in round seven and rocking the Mexican contender late in the frame. After all but taking off round eight, Magdaleno exploded early in round nine. A chopping left hand floored Rivera seconds into the round, but immediately springing to his feet in his best effort to insist he wasn’t hurt.
Perhaps he wasn’t, but he certainly was frustrated.
The fight would come to an inconclusive ending as the fight was stopped with seconds to go in round nine. A left elbow by Rivera left his foe with a deep cut over his right eye. It was deemed an accidental foul, which resulted in the bout going to scorecards after the ringside physician ruled the cut too severe to continue.
“It’s just part of the sport. I tip my hat to Rivera, he’s a guerrero (warrior). This is boxing.”
Riveral falls to 27-4-2 (18KOs) with the loss.
The bout served as the chief support to reigning 122-pound titlist Emanuel Navarrete (27-1, 23KOs) who defends versus unbeaten Phoenix (Az.)-based Francisco de Vaca (20-0, 6KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox