Homegrown from the 702
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (March 22, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)
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For decades, Las Vegas has been known as the “boxing capital of the world,” having hosted some of the biggest and most lucrative prizefights. Some of the most historic and iconic bouts have taken place in “Sin City,” yet, ironically enough, it hasn't really produced that many homegrown boxers. Sure, many standouts- most notably Floyd Mayweather- migrate to the desert. But how many boxers raised and developed in the 702 have gone on to win a world title?
Junior lightweight Diego Magdaleno, who headlines this Friday night’s edition of “ShoBox” from the Casino del Sol in Tuscon, Arizona against Fernando Beltran, might be the first; believe it or not.
Born in North Hollywood, California, he moved to Vegas at the age of eight in 1996.
So how is it that a city with such a rich boxing tradition hasn't produced more world-class prizefighters?
“Because of the lifestyle,” explained Magdaleno to Maxboxing, “I stay away from the downtown area, the whole strip area. I mean, I live a lifestyle away from Vegas. I live in Vegas but I live a lifestyle away from it and I think a lot of people get caught up in the night life and the club industry.”
In other words, he lives in Las Vegas but he's not about Las Vegas.
He began boxing in this city at the Golden Gloves Boxing Gym, which is no longer open.

“When I was a younger kid, I was beating up kids in the neighborhood,” Magdaleno recalled, laughing. “It was an idea from my dad, He wanted me to get into sports. My dad's a big sports fan and we tried soccer but I don't know; it wasn't my feet. It was my hands. I was just very aggressive as a kid.” Las Vegas is a city of transients but in many respects, it is like growing up in any other city. “There's a lot of diversity, here; everyone is kinda spread out doing whatever they can and sports is one of the main things that's out here that's provided for all the kids.”
The graduate of Clark High was the only one among his circle of friends who boxed.
The estimated population of Las Vegas hovers around just under 600,000 (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/32/3240000.html). And in other sports like football and basketball, you see more and more athletes from this area earning college scholarships. But according to Pat Berry, who trains Magdaleno and his talented younger brother, Jesse, you will see more locally produced boxers in the near future.

“You are starting to see a little more, a larger number, but realistically, this is a very small town. Geez, even 20 years ago, even though we were the ‘Mecca of Boxing’ back then because of the hotels and the adult entertainment industry- and I mean as far as gambling goes- and the shows and whatnot and that being said, that's what Las Vegas has been known for. But the population was never like L.A. or New York or cities like that,” said Berry, who came to the city in 1976 and was a policemen for three decades before retiring a few years ago.
He continued, “So we didn't have that pool to pick from. The numbers were limited but as time has gone on now and our population is growing, Las Vegas is now truly developed into a major city and you're starting to see a lot more proficiency in the amateurs coming around. We're seeing more national champions coming about; I got three of them right here in the gym [Berry's Boxing Center] that, right now, they're fighting in the Golden Gloves Nationals in the next two weeks.”
Another issue in developing a fighter in Las Vegas is that while there is an abundance of big cards at venues like the MGM Grand and the Mandalay Bay, the city hasn't had a consistent club circuit in years where fighters could be nurtured and developed. This city is truly about the marquee names who come in to play to big houses.

“They had the ‘Silver Slipper’ for like 20 years, the ‘Fight of the Week,’ but most of the guys that came in, whether it's Oscar [De La Hoya], it's [Manny] Pacquiao, they come to Vegas to fight. But they're not homegrown products like [Johnny] Tapia and [Danny] Romero were from Albuquerque or [Michael] Carbajal from Phoenix,” said Bruce Trampler, matchmaker for Top Rank, who moved to the desert in 1986, as his company moved west.
There are several notable gyms out here, from Johnny Tocco's, the one Berry owns and operates and Floyd Mayweather's private gym. Top Rank even has its own property that its boxers can use when they're in town. But even Magdaleno had to leave town to get sparring for this fight, heading to the Maywood Boxing Club in Maywood, a working class community just minutes from Los Angeles.

“There was just a line of guys down there,” he said, pointing out that while his hometown is, “the capital of boxing, there's not enough boxing out here.”
Yeah, Vegas is about fights, not necessarily fighters.
Magdaleno has steadily improved since turning professional in 2007. He's now 21-0 with seven stoppages to his credit. He made big strides in 2010 and 2011, notching nine victories and scoring a few eye-opening stoppages. He also proved he could sell a few tickets locally. It took time for this fast, southpaw boxer to develop into a pro. “At the beginning of my career, I was more on my toes,” he admitted. “Now I'm starting to plant myself and it's still my style but just sitting on my punches.”
Berry says of his boxer’s evolution, “It was just a matter of settling him down and bringing him out. All of what he has is God-given talent but a lot of it he wasn't utilizing, sitting down on his punches and trying the pivots and rotations, getting the most weight behind the punch to get the most bang for the buck, so to say. Now, he's getting more confident in himself, so now that's coming out. So there's a couple of things coming together here. It's not just one factor but we're seeing, I think, big strides and improvement in the delivery of his punches and his workmanlike fashion in the ring.
“He's no-nonsense. He's in there to work from bell to bell.”
Looking at the ratings, you’ll see the Magdaleno is listed in all four of the major sanctioning bodies as high as number two in the WBA and rated third by the WBC. He is closing in on a title shot.
“From what they're telling me, it's as close as this year. Anytime this year, so I've been waiting for it patiently and I'm ready to go whenever they give me the green light,” said Magdaleno, who's 25 years old. Berry says he'll leave those decisions up to Top Rank and its matchmakers. “I'd like to see a title shot by the end of the year but a lot of that depends on who's on top and what the politics are as far as mandatories,” explained Trampler. “But yeah, he's capable in terms of ability of fighting for a world title this year.”
Meanwhile, Magdaleno will continue to hone his craft and live in the city he calls home.
“There's a lot to do in Vegas,” he insists. “You have Mt. Charleston; you have Red Rock- which I live real close to- you have the lake. There's a lot of things you can do, especially at this time of year. You can go down to the lake, which is nice, and then you go up snowboarding. So there's a lot of things you can do outside of the club life.”
More of Steve's recent work below his contact info...
I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.
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