The moment he heard ring announcer Michael Buffer say he had lost a 12-round split decision to WBO super featherweight champion Rocky Martinez, Diego Magdaleno realized he’d have to chart a new course in his quest to win a world title.
After his April 6 loss to Martinez in Macau, Magdaleno (23-1, nine knockouts) made major changes.
He left Las Vegas. He changed trainers. He hired a new manager. Magdaleno, 26, is confident the moves will pay off beginning tonight when he returns to the ring against veteran Edgar Riovalle in a scheduled 10-round bout at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., on the undercard of the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Bryan Vera fight.
“You’ll see a more professional fighter,” said Magdaleno, citing his work with trainer Joel Diaz since they formed their partnership in May. “I have the right team behind me, and that makes a huge difference.”
He’s hoping a win over Riovalle (36-15-2, 25 KOs) will get him back in the title chase, if not against Martinez, then maybe against WBC champion Takashi Miura, WBA titleholder Takashi Uchiyama or IBF champion Argenis Mendez.
“I don’t care who it is,” said Magdaleno, who now lives in Southern California. “I just want another shot at a belt. I’m not leaving 130 (pounds) until I win a title.”
Magdaleno had been trained by Pat Barry since he was an amateur, and Barry’s wife, Dawn, oversaw the business side of Magdaleno’s pro career, which began in 2007. But Magdaleno was contemplating a change even before his defeat.
The split between Magdaleno and the Barrys was awkward. Pat Barry continues to train Magdaleno’s younger brother Jessie, a promising super bantamweight who is 16-0.
But Diego Magdaleno has no regrets.
“It’s so much different now,” he said. “(My new handlers) have a system, and they stay with it. They have a plan, and there’s a reason for everything Joel does. He’s constantly challenging me without really changing me. Joel saw little flaws, and he explained to me what he saw and how he was going to change it.
“One of the things he saw was my distance was a problem. I was too close to my opponent and was getting hit more. Now, he has me a little further back, and it gives me time to block more punches, while at the same time I’ve got more momentum when I’m moving forward and throwing my punches, and I have more strength behind my punches than before.
“I’m a more relaxed fighter now. I see things almost in slow motion.”
Diaz, who also trains WBO welterweight champ Timothy Bradley, said he has a good student in Magdaleno.
“He’s happy and enjoys training,” Diaz said. “I love the fact he wants to learn, and he’s got a great attitude.”
Diaz said he didn’t see a need to make wholesale changes with Magdaleno.
“The big things I noticed was he was too close to his opponent, he wasn’t as flexible as he should be, and he wasn’t getting the kind of quality sparring he needed to push him,” Diaz said. “We’re getting Diego quality sparring, and he’s got better distance now. He’s going to be a much better fighter going forward.”
Magdaleno was eager to get back into the ring after his loss to Martinez. But when he hired Frank Espinoza as his manager, Espinoza told him to be patient and wait for the right opportunity. Magdaleno said getting on tonight’s HBO-televised card made it worth the wait.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.