Boxing can take a combatant to the highest of peaks and then almost simultaneously dump them to the lowest of lows. The sport is littered with many such casualties and cautionary stories of stars that rose too fast only to crash and burn. It’s almost a cliché in the sport, the promising career of the next big thing halted in its tracks through a litany of bad managers, trainers that don’t care or organizational politics that sees the fighter sidelined for long periods of time.

Jessie Magdaleno is a classic case of all of the above. Magdaleno was a fighter who looked like he had the world at his feet, after coming in as a heavy underdog, defeating future hall-of-famer Nonito Donaire in 2016, causing one of the biggest upsets in the sport that year. 

Undefeated, and a newly minted world champion, the boxing world looked to be Magdaleno’s oyster, but it all came crashing down following a heavy knockout loss to Isaac Dogboe in 2018. Even worse this was then followed by a period of inactivity, managerial issues, and a time in his life which got so low Magdaleno even contemplated suicide. 

I ask Magdaleno how things went so wrong after that famous win against Donaire, 

‘To be honest the fight with Donaire should’ve been my last fight at 122 pounds. I was really struggling to make the weight, and I remember with the Dogboe fight on the day of the weigh-in I had one pound to lose, and I spent four hours in a high intensity workout just to lose that pound.’ 

Magdaleno admits to having go through all the classics we hear about when a fighter is struggling to make weight, the sauna sessions, the near starvation of living day-to-day on half an apple and a bunch of grapes. By the time he fought Dogboe he knew he was in trouble,

‘I started that fight pretty well and I knocked him down in the first round and I remember thinking if I don’t get him out of here in the next three or four rounds I’m going to struggle and that’s exactly what happened. By the end of the fight, I felt like my feet were cement and I couldn’t avoid what was coming in.’ 

Being that the weight was almost impossible to make I put it to Magdaleno that surely the sensible move would’ve been to vacate the title and move up to where bigger challenges awaited him. He agrees but this is where the politics of the sport began to play a role and where his career began to stall.

‘At the time I was managed by Frank Espinoza, and he also managed Oscar Valdez at 126. I really believe he didn’t want me to move up and make that fight. I feel like he always favored Valdez more than me and, in a way, losing to Dogboe was a blessing because if I’d won that fight there would’ve been immense pressure to keep me at 122 pounds.’  

What followed was a lackluster few years for the former world champion, reduced to fighting irregularly against opponents not in his class, a period where Magdaleno didn’t feel fully supported by his trainers nor management. Times that became so bad he even considered taking his own life.  

‘Things got really low and I’m not too proud to say that I did consider it. It was a moment in time, but I’m just thankful that I realized I have a lot to live for and I have a wonderful wife and family and I feel blessed to come through the other side of it.’ 

And so, the pendulum swings again for Jessie Magdaleno as he finally managed to break free from his previous contracts and sign with Hector Fernandez de Cordova’s Ferco Box, a management team that Magdaleno believes firmly has his back.

‘He is very much there for me, anything I need he’s always available. He’s known me for around 8 years, he’s been patiently waiting for me to get out of my contract, and he always said that I did, he would take me places. I told him my troubles that I was having with my ex-manager, he said he’d do everything and anything to get me out of it. Of course I’ve heard that story a hundred times, but he actually did it and now he’s got me fights, he said pick one let’s go!’ 

A new management team has also coincided with a move to the Team Barry gym, run by famed veteran trainer Kevin Barry and his son Taylor. I ask Magdaleno how that came about,

‘I had previously sparred a couple of their fighters, and we had kept in touch. One day Taylor messaged me, and he said come down to our gym we’d love to train you. I had been training with them for a couple of weeks when the call came that I had a fight. I asked if they would train me for this fight and they were all about it and I can honestly say this camp has been one of the best, most professional, easiest, and fun camps I’ve been in for a very very long time. "

The fight in question is against Edy Valencia on Saturday May 21st at the Event Center, Las Vegas. Valencia comes with a modest record of 19-6-6 and it’s fair to say is not in Magdaleno’s class. However this is more about Magdaleno establishing a starting point for the second chapter of his career with a new manager and training team. A fight that gives him a chance to shake off the ring rust and just enjoy the moment of being back in the ring.

‘Saturday I’m looking forward to getting out there and implementing the game plan that Kevin and Taylor have put together for me. I’m gonna punish this guy to the body, to the head, work our fundamentals for as long as he lasts. If he goes the full eight rounds fine, if we get him out earlier great.  All I want is to make a statement and to let everyone know there is some trouble coming at 126. I’m not looking past him but ultimately, I would love to fight Emanual Navarrete. I was supposed to fight him last year, but the negotiations weren’t quite right, he’s still on my radar though and I hope he’s still looking for it too.’ 

Ideally Magdaleno would like to have two tune-up fights before making the eventual leap into the deeper waters of the 126-pound division, but most importantly he appears settled, humble and grateful for the opportunity to resume doing what he loves for a living.

Having lived through a nightmare scenario of bad contracts, crazy weight cuts and inactivity Magdaleno knows not everyone is as lucky as he is to get a second crack at the dream. As he talks about his family, his uncles in particular, the support of his wife you can see the emotion, boxing clearly runs deep in his veins. And now finally with the right team in place Jessie Magdaleno looks primed to make some serious noise in the Featherweight division and it all starts on Saturday night in Las Vegas, the city of dreams, where if you’re in the right place at the right time, the fairy-tale ending sometimes come true.