Dan Rafael: Jessie Magdaleno
"Top Rank is where I want to be," Magdaleno said after signing his multiyear agreement. "This is a great day for me and my family."
Magdaleno (27-1, 11 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw from Las Vegas, has been with Top Rank since his pro debut in 2007. His younger brother, top junior featherweight prospect Jessie Magdaleno, is also signed to Top Rank.
Diego Magdaleno’s contract expired late last year, but Top Rank and manager Frank Espinoza each expressed interest in a new deal.
"It's great to have Diego re-sign because 2015 is going to be a great year for Diego in both the junior lightweight and lightweight divisions," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. "We plan to announce his next bout shortly."
Magdaleno has won four fights in a row since suffering his only defeat by split decision in a junior lightweight title challenge to Rocky Martinez in Macau, China, in April 2013. Since then, Magdaleno has been fighting in the lightweight division.
"Ideally, Diego will fight at lightweight," Moretti said, "but if the opportunity presents itself for him to have a big fight or fight for a title at junior lightweight, we will also look at that."
Las Vegas junior featherweight prospect Jessie Magdaleno (19-0, 15 KOs), the 23-year-old younger brother of lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno, will headline the card in an eight-round bout against Oxnard, California’s Erik Ruiz (13-1, 6 KOs), also 23.
Magdaleno is trained by Joel Diaz in Palm Springs, California, so he has been in camp with Diaz’s other fighters, including former welterweight titleholders Timothy Bradley Jr. and Victor Ortiz, both of whom fought last weekend.
Magdaleno, a former standout amateur, is one of Top Rank’s blue-chip prospects and could move toward a title fight in 2015. That is certainly Diaz’s hope.
"Jessie Magdaleno is among the best worldwide in his division,” Diaz said. “He's explosive, has power in both hands and has great defense. He is getting close to fighting for a world title."
In the co-feature, Riverside, California, junior lightweight prospect Saul Rodriguez (15-0-1, 12 KOs), 21, will face an opponent to be named in an eight-rounder. East Los Angeles featherweight prospect Vic Pasillas (8-0, 3 KOs), 22, will also be on the card in a six-rounder.
However, Magdaleno (18-0, 14 KOs), 22, of Las Vegas, has been scratched from the card, which is headlined by a middleweight fight between Gilberto Ramirez and former title challenger Giovanni Lorenzo and also includes super middleweight prospect Jesse Hart in his television debut.
Magdaleno, the younger brother of junior lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno, is off the card because of tonsillitis, Top Rank spokesman Lee Samuels told ESPN.com.
“Looks like tonsils will be removed,” said Samuels, who said he got the news from Diego at the Top Rank’s card in Las Vegas on Friday night.
Magdaleno (17-0, 13 KOs) signed with manager Frank Espinoza, joining a quality stable of fighters that also includes older brother and junior lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno, former three-division titlist Abner Mares, junior welterweight prospect Antonio Orozco and featherweight prospect Oscar Valdez, the dynamic 2012 Mexican Olympian. Jessie could turn out to be the best of the bunch.
“This is a very big signing,” said Espinoza, who bought out the rest of the existing managerial contract (less than a year) that Magdaleno had with Pat Barry, who also used to manage and train both Diego and Jessie. “We worked out the details -- something monetarily -- with Pat, and Jessie got his release. It was for the best for all parties and now Jessie can concentrate on his future.
“We already had Diego. We’re very happy to have both brothers. The goal is to have them both be world champions at the same time.”
The 22-year-old Magdaleno, a southpaw, was a top amateur and on course for a possible berth on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, but he instead opted to turn pro in 2010.
He’s moving nicely as a pro and went 4-0, all by knockout, in 2013. His first fight with Espinoza is scheduled for Feb. 15 against Roberto Castaneda (20-5-1, 15 KOs) in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., on a card that Diego is headlining. If all goes well in that fight, Jessie is scheduled to fight again on March 29 at Texas Station in Las Vegas.
“I think Jessie can win the world title [at junior featherweight], and I do see him moving up later to featherweight and being crowned there,” Espinoza said. “I see good things in different weight divisions for this kid.”
• Longtime Nevada judge Duane Ford resigned his position earlier this month, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Ford is leaving ringside to take over as president of the North American Boxing Federation, a regional affiliate of the WBC. Ford judged hundreds of world title fights but drew heavy (and warranted) criticism for his scoring of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. fight in June 2012. He was one of the two judges, along with C.J. Ross, to submit a 115-113 score in favor of Bradley, setting off wide outrage at the split decision (when most believed Pacquiao had clearly won). Ford opened himself up for even more criticism after the fight when he remarked that Bradley had given Pacquiao "a boxing lesson."
• Promising middleweight Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez Sanchez (25-0, 20 KOs), a 22-year-old from Mexico, will make his American debut on Aug. 24 (UniMas) in Glendale, Calif., Top Rank announced. He will face one-time prospect Julio Cesar Garcia (46-8, 39 KOs) in a 10-rounder. If Sanchez beats Garcia, he would then be likely to face Italy's Domenico Spada (37-4, 19 KOs) in a title eliminator. Also on the card, blue-chip junior featherweight prospect Jessie Magdaleno (15-0, 11 KOs), 21, will face stepping-stone opponent Jose Luis Araiza (31-8-1, 22 KOs) in an eight-rounder.
• Miguel Cotto, who likely will return to the ring in September, is keeping busy with his promotional company. In his June 7 card on Showtime from Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y., junior middleweight Jorge Melendez (26-2-1, 25 KOs) of Puerto Rico will headline against Mexico's Luis Grajeda (14-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Puerto Rican bantamweight Jonathan Vidal (17-0, 9 KOs) will face Mario Munoz (13-0-1, 10 KOs) of Mexico in the eight-round co-feature.
• Junior bantamweight titlist Juan Carlos Sanchez (15-1-1, 8 KOs) of Mexico will make a mandatory defense against Argentina's Roberto Sosa (24-0, 14 KOs) on June 8 (UniMas) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Top Rank announced. Hot prospect Jessie Magdaleno (14-0, 10 KOs), who is from Las Vegas, will fight in the eight-round junior featherweight co-feature against Henry Maldonado (16-1, 11 KOs) of Nicaragua. Also on the card: heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz (18-0, 12 KOs) in an eight-rounder against Carl Davis (16-5, 12 KOs). It's a tune-up fight for Ruiz, who is scheduled to face fellow undefeated prospect Joe Hanks on July 27 in Macau.
• The ESPN2 card headlined by junior featherweight Chris Avalos (21-2, 16 KOs) and former interim junior bantamweight titlist Drian Francisco (24-1-1, 19 KOs) of the Philippines, originally scheduled for June 14 at Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel in Las Vegas, has been moved to July 12. Junior middleweight prospects Glen Tapia (18-0, 10 KOs) and Abie Han (19-0, 12 KOs) will meet in the 10-round co-feature.
• Welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (14-0, 8 KOs), an 18-year-old from Washington, D.C., who was just 17 when he turned pro, will headline a hometown card at the University of the District of Columbia's Sports Complex on Saturday night when he steps up a bit in competition against Puerto Rico native Eddie Soto (12-6, 4 KOs) of Pawtucket, R.I. Harrison is a student at the school. The card will be streamed live at Gofightlive.tv beginning at 7 p.m.
A few updates on some upcoming fights:
• American fans will have a chance to see the rematch between junior lightweight titlist Juan Carlos Salgado (26-1-1, 16 KOs) and Argenis Mendez (20-2, 10 KOs). HBO bought the rights to the March 9 bout and will air it on HBO Latino (8:30 p.m. ET).
The fight takes place in Costa Mesa, Calif., on the undercard of the heavyweight eliminator between Cristobal Arreola and Bermane Stiverne. Arreola-Stiverne is part of an HBO-split site tripleheader that also includes light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud against Bernard Hopkins and welterweight Keith Thurman against Jan Zaveck from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. HBO did not have room for a fourth fight on its telecast, but made a deal for Salgado-Mendez II to air on its Spanish-language channel. I hope we will see more of this sort of thing from HBO, sort of like how Showtime Extreme has done a great job televising preliminary bouts for Showtime cards.
March 9 is a big night for HBO -- a live title fight on HBO Latino followed by the network tripleheader and then, immediately following the tripleheader on HBO, there will be a new edition of “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley.”
• Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said that the return of former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan, slated for April 20, will move to April 27 (Showtime). Nothing official yet with regard to the site or opponent, although he is likely to fight in his native England.
• Polish light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara suffered a hand fracture, forcing him to withdraw from the main event of the March 22 ESPN “Friday Night Fights” card. He was due to face Nicholson Poulard. Fonfara will be out for at least four weeks, but if he needs surgery he could be sidelined for three to six months. ESPN2 is working with the promoters to put together a new main event, but still has a quality co-feature that could possibly move up to the main event spot -- Donovan George, who is moving down to middleweight, against David Lopez.
• An injury has knocked light heavyweight prospect Mike Lee off the March 16 Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov card. Top Rank has also added hot junior featherweight prospect Jessie Magdaleno to the card in an eight-rounder.
For years, the weekly Spanish-language boxing series aired on Telefutura, a sister network to Univision. But Telefutura was renamed UniMas on Jan. 7 as part of a company re-branding. The good news: If you got Telefutura before, you'll get the newly named network on the same channel, with the 90-minute cards beginning at either 11 p.m. ET/PT or midnight ET/PT.
Also, for the past few years, almost all of the shows were promoted by Golden Boy, with a few shows mixed in from Don Chargin and Miguel Cotto Promotions (who got their dates from Golden Boy's allotment).
This year, Golden Boy likely won't be doing any shows, and Top Rank -- which started the series in 2000 and once controlled all of the dates -- is back as the main supplier. Top Rank will put on at least 26 shows this year, although a handful of them might be fights from its vast library rather than live events. The promoter also might pick up more live dates.
UniMas has changed its business model from that when it had been Telefutura. Rather than UniMas doling out a weekly license fee to the promoter, Top Rank will bring sponsors and generate revenue from sponsors as well as its international television rights and gate money.
Doing the series is no money maker. Top Rank's hope is to simply not lose too much. The cards are essentially a way for the promoter to invest in its fighters by keeping them active and getting them exposure. The series will offer a place for fans to watch the development of young fighters such as standout prospects Jessie Magdaleno, Jose Ramirez, Oscar Valdez and Felix Verdejo.
Although Top Rank hopes to make the new model work, Golden Boy -- which has more television dates than Top Rank, including a slew on Fox Sports Net/Fox Deportes -- is not inclined to continue with UniMas under the new model, according to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. If it wants to, however, Golden Boy could pick up around 24 shows.
"If [UniMas] is changing their model and it's a time buy in an attractive time slot, that's one thing," Schaefer said. "But if it's a time buy at 11 p.m. on the West Coast or midnight, it doesn't do much good other than to build up the record of the fighters. So I am not jumping into it, because it's not a model I like -- but I'm thinking about it. A time buy is a difficult thing to sustain."
Top Rank declined to discuss the series because, although it begins Saturday night (midnight ET/11 PT), the contracts have not been executed yet.
The season opener will take place in McAllen, Texas and will be headlined by a lightweight bout between promising Jose Felix Jr. (22-0-1, 18 KOs) and Gerardo Robles (16-10, 7 KOs).
Although the bout isn't scheduled for the broadcast, super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell (20-1, 14 KOs) -- promoted by rapper 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson) and appearing on the card because Top Rank's Bob Arum is doing Jackson a favor -- will face Ghana's Michael Gbenga (13-6, 13 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Dirrell, a 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and former title challenger, has had just one fight since suffering a head injury in an 11th-round disqualification win against Arthur Abraham during the second stage of the Super Six World Boxing Classic in March 2010. In his only fight since then, Dirrell stopped Darryl Cunningham in the second round in December 2011.
Top Rank has three additional dates on the schedule so far:
• Feb. 9 in Mexico City, where welterweight Daniel Sandoval will meet Miguel Callist.
• Feb. 16 in Tijuana, Mexico, where Alejandro Lopez will face Jhonatan Romero for a vacant junior featherweight world title (the belt vacated last fall by Nonito Donaire).
• Feb. 23 at a site to be determined. One of the bouts on the card will involve 2012 U.S. Olympian Jose Ramirez, a lightweight, in his second pro bout.