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Jessie Magdaleno: Gary Russell Jr is a tremendous fighter, but I can beat him

Jessie Magdaleno discusses his recent fight, the state of his groin, and his hopes to challenge Gary Russell Jr.

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

Jessie Magdaleno was in the main event of Top Rank’s second card back from hiatus last Thursday, and while he got the win expected over Yenifel Vicente, the method left some to be desired.

Not necessarily that Magdaleno (28-1, 18 KO) under-performed or anything, but he probably didn’t want to have his groin caved in by repeated low blows from Vicente, who was finally disqualified in the 10th and final round.

“I re-watched the fight, I counted a total of eight (low blows),” Magdaleno told Fight Hub TV’s Marcos Villegas. “But I’m a fighter, man, I gotta deal with what I gotta deal with, and I gotta keep pushing. At the end of the day, I’m a strong Mexican fighter, I got these cojones like crazy, and I just had to do what I had to do. I had to keep my composure.”

Magdaleno did admit the temptation is there to fire back in revenge.

“Yes, I did want to hit him back low,” he said. “I did want to get my revenge on him. But I knew if I did that, it would have been blown way out of proportion. I had to just keep my class in there.”

Magdaleno did keep his composure, and didn’t even seem particularly enraged after the fight or in this interview. He said he tried to talk to Vicente after the fight was over, and got nothing.

“There was no apology from him, no nothing. I knew what he was doing was intentional. That was his tactic. He couldn’t catch me. I was taunting him, I was talking mess to him, I was really getting in his head. I think that’s why he didn’t have any remorse about it, because that’s what he had to do to slow me down. It didn’t work, so he just kept doing it over and over.”

Magdaleno, 28, added that he was still sore the next day, and that he also agreed with many fans and media pundits who felt referee Robert Byrd should have stopped the fight before he did. Vicente was penalized repeatedly before Byrd stopped the fight just over halfway through the final round.

“The first one, OK, he hit me (low), then hit me (in the head) right after that. You can see Byrd jumping in, and he still threw it with bad intentions,” Magdaleno said. “And the second one, in the seventh or eighth round, he measured it — he put his arm up in front of my face, and shot directly low with the right hand, right where the nuts are.

“Me, personally, I thought the fight should have been called right there. I didn’t think it should’ve went on until the 10th round. It’s for the fighter’s safety.”

Post-fight, Magdaleno stated his desire to go after a 126-pound world title. As a former WBO titleholder at 122, you might expect him to be focused on Top Rank stablemate Shakur Stevenson, who holds the WBO featherweight title, but that has never really been mentioned by anyone, even though the two were main eventers last week on back-to-back cards.

As we’ve said before, if there were any desire from Top Rank to do that fight, it would have come up plenty. It hasn’t, and Stevenson looks intent to go up to 130, anyway, which could leave an open belt at 126.

Gary Russell Jr v Tugstsogt Nyambayar Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

But Magdaleno seems to have his sights firmly set on the WBC title held by Gary Russell Jr, a PBC fighter. Magdaleno has great respect for Russell, but does believe his style could be a problem for the titleholder.

“He’s a tremendous fighter, he’s an ex-Olympian, he’s a world champion for a reason. He’s made his mark in boxing for sure. I take my hat off to him and nothing away from him. But I’m a younger fighter, I’m a little bit more active than him, and I know I have what it takes to beat a fighter like him.

“I stepped in there with one of the baddest dudes at 122 pounds, Nonito Donaire, and I took it to him. Why can’t I do it with Russell? I have the talent, I have the speed and power, I have the great mind set as well as he does. Styles make fights and I think it would be a tremendous fight to have.”

Asked why Russell (31-1, 18 KO) gives opponents such trouble, Magdaleno pointed to what have always been two of the 32-year-old southpaw’s greatest and clearest assets: his speed and his ring iQ.

“His hand speed really surprises everybody, and then he makes the fight his fight,” Magdaleno said. “I think a lot of fighters don’t know how to transition and make the fight their fight, and make him come to you. You’re always going to him and trying to make him fight. But I think with my style, my movement — I’m more of a boxer-puncher. I can also be a brawler at times. But I think my style fits perfect with him. We’re both very strong lefties, we’re both fast lefties. I think me and him would hit it off great.”

No matter the news on that fight’s potential, Magdaleno insists he wants to stay busy right now ahead of anything.

“I’m trying to get back in September. I want to stay active. I don’t want to waste any time. If the world title is next or at the beginning of next year, I’m ready for whatever comes at me, but I’m ready for the world title next.”

Russell last fought on Feb. 8, taking a — for him — extremely short break between fights of only nine months instead of a full year, and picking up a strong win over Tugstsogt Nyambayar. Russell has stated his desire to fight more than once this year, something he hasn’t done since 2014, but we’ll see.

More likely than not, if we see Magdaleno again by September, it would be another tune-up, but there is a chance Top Rank could wrangle him a vacant WBO title fight, too, if Stevenson moves up in weight officially and vacates his belt.

At the moment, Magdaleno is ranked No. 4 by the WBO, behind Michael Conlan, Ruben Villa, and Ryan Walsh. There are a few possibilities here.

One scenario is Conlan (13-0, 7 KO) and Villa (18-0, 5 KO) could fight for the vacant belt, a No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup in the WBO rankings, if Conlan can get over to the States or Villa to Belfast, for instance. That would be the first order, but first orders don’t always go through in boxing.

For instance, Top Rank could have Conlan pass on a vacant title fight for the time being — despite his ranking, his opposition has been extremely soft, really even more than Villa who has become a ShoBox standout. If Top Rank have another course and another time frame plotted for Conlan, that could rule him out.

And with Walsh (26-2-2, 12 KO) not only in the UK but contractually obligated to face Jazza Dickens in MTK’s Golden Contract tournament final, that could take him out of the conversation for the time being.

That, then, could leave Villa and Magdaleno to fight for a vacant title. All of this is just for the sake of discussion, mind you.

Either way, Magdaleno is looking to try his luck at becoming a two-division titlist sooner than later.

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