By Francisco Salazar
Jessie Magdaleno no longer wears the label of ‘number one contender.’
That all ended on the night of Nov. 5, when he won the WBO junior featherweight title by split decision over Nonito Donaire.
Now comes the hard part regarding a world title belt: successfully defending it. While he targeted Donaire and other world titleholders at 122 pounds, Magdaleno understands he became a fighter with a bull’s eye for the top fighters in the division to target.
Magdaleno will make the first defense of his world title tonight when he faces Adeilson Dos Santos at the Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif. The 12 round bout will open the pay-per-view telecast, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT.
For several months, Magdaleno (24-0, with 17 KOs) was ranked the mandatory challenger to the WBO title before the fight was eventually made with Donaire. Magdaleno headline numerous ‘Solo Boxeo’ cards that aired on UniMas, knocking out or defeating modest opposition.
Numerous boxing scribes picked Donaire to win, siding with the experience factor and quality of opposition for Donaire. But Magdaleno followed a strict game-plan, defeating the Filipino fighter by unanimous decision.
Magdaleno faces Dos Santos in a voluntary defense. Dos Santos (18-2, with 14 KOs) has won four of his last six bouts.
“I see him coming in ready for a great night of action,” Magdaleno told BoxingScene.com during an open workout. “I know he's going to come in and give it his best. He has a great opportunity to take the title away. I know he’s going to come in ready, just as much as I am.”
“Even though I have the title, I'm hungrier now than when I fought (Nonito) Donaire. I'm ready to continue to hold on to this title for many, many years.”
A lot of the success Magdaleno is enjoying now is due to working with trainer Manuel ‘Manny’ Robles. While he worked with trainer Joel Diaz in the past, Magdaleno believes his career has taken off more since working with Robles at The Rock Gym in Carson.
Magdaleno points to the Donaire fight as an example of how he has improved his skill-set.
“Look at my last fight,” said the 25-year-old Magdaleno, who is managed by Frank Espinoza. “(That fight showed how) I was a more well-rounded fighter. I was the aggressor, the boxer, I had a solid defense. That's just the type of coach he (Robles) is. He's a great coach who is well-rounded and he knows how to get the best out of his fighters.”
Robles has garnered a reputation as a trainer lately, thanks in part to the success of his fighters. Robles also trains WBO World featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez, along with 2016 Olympian and prospect Michael Conlan.
Robles also trains light heavyweight Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Emilio Sanchez, along with his son, unbeaten Manny Robles Jr.
“He has great young fighters and they want to accomplish great things and become world champions. They're all capable of doing it. I believe in every single one of them. That's what makes the team so great. Manny is an underrated. But that's great he's underrated because it shows we're under the radar.”
Magdaleno has been focused on the Dos Santos fight, but there are a few intriguing fights at 122 pounds or he could move up to the featherweight division in the next 12-18 months.
A knockout or impressive victory could generate more buzz for Magdaleno.
“If the knockout comes, it comes. I'm not focused on the knockout. I'm (more) focused on coming out (of the fight) with a victory and coming out healthy. Either way, it's going to be a statement because I have the title and I know there are lots of fighters that want to take it away from me. We're ready for whoever wants to do that and to unify the weight class.”
“I would like to unify the titles in the division. It's a great accomplishment what I did last year.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, RingTV.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing