LAS VEGAS – The Fight Capital of the World needs to be renamed. These days, Las Vegas is really only "The Major Fight Capital of the World."
Anything less than a massive HBO or Showtime card gets largely ignored by the populace. Good tickets for mid-level and smaller shows are always, as they say, still available.
Slowly, though, brothers Diego and Jessie Magdaleno are fighting to change that perception. They've created something of a cottage industry for Top Rank in their hometown, regularly selling out the local casino ballrooms where they fight.
And on back-to-back days this week, they'll appear on televised cards at the Texas Station in North Las Vegas where the crowds will be big and very loud.
Augie Sanchez, one of their trainers, was known a decade or so ago as "Kid Vegas." He is the next-to-last person to have beaten the great Floyd Mayweather, in an amateur bout in 1996. He went on to a fairly successful pro career, the highlight of which was a title fight loss to Prince Naseem Hamed.
Sanchez was highly popular in his hometown and drew big, enthusiastic crowds to the club shows he headlined, walking to the ring as Elvis' "Viva Las Vegas" blared from the sound system.
As successful as he was, though, Sanchez believes the unbeaten brothers have far more potential, both as local attractions and boxers.
"It's great that they are getting people in Las Vegas interested in boxing again," Sanchez said. "And they deserve the attention, because they're going to do a lot of great things in this sport."
On Friday, Jessie Magdaleno (10-0) opens the ESPN2 broadcast when he meets Aldimar Santos. The next night, Diego Magdaleno, who at 25 is five years older than his brother, takes on veteran Antonio Davis in the main event of a card televised on Spanish-language Telefutura.
Diego is 22-0 with eight knockouts and on the verge of a world title shot at super featherweight. The opportunity to have what amounts to a Magdaleno Weekend in his hometown was appealing to him.
And so, though Jessie will fight only hours after Diego weighs in, Diego will be ringside to cheer on his brother rather than recovering from the weigh-in.
"I love the fact they're showcasing us both," said Diego, whose car has the license plate IAMAKO for "I am a knockout." "We have our own day and we get two times the time to shine."
They could be shining for a long time. Many agree that Jessie is the better long-range prospect, though he's fighting just his first eight-round bout on Friday. But Bruce Trampler, Top Rank's Hall of Fame matchmaker who built the careers of fighters like Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya and Kelly Pavlik, thinks both have the potential to become elite.
He would not be shocked, he says, if both brothers won world titles.
Jessie Magdaleno isn't particularly comfortable talking about his own world title prospects just yet.
"Of course I want to get a belt, but I'm still learning," he said. "I would love to have one, but Top Rank knows what they're doing."
Promoter Bob Arum said Diego will get a shot at the World Boxing Organization super featherweight belt later this year or early next year as the opener of an HBO card if he wins Saturday. Rocky Martinez and Miguel Beltran are fighting for the WBO belt Sept. 15 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas and Arum said Magdaleno will get the winner.
Not so long ago, Arum wasn't sure if Diego would get to that point.
"It was pretty obvious he was a great kid and people liked him, but Diego started very slowly as a professional," Arum said. "He won his fights, but people had their doubts about him. It's been the last year or so that he's really come on and you can say, 'Yeah, this kid is really and truly championship material.' It was different with Jessie.
"From the get-go, Jessie was impressive. Even from his first fight, you could see the potential and project down the road that he could be something special as a pro."
They're both adjusting to their newly found fame. Jessie said girls have begun leaving him their telephone numbers on his Twitter page and on Facebook.
"Been some hot ones, too," he said, laughing.
It's all heady stuff for them. Sanchez, who went through it himself as the big deal locally a generation earlier, is excited because the Magdalenos are reviving interest in boxing in Las Vegas at the grass roots level.
Las Vegas has been badly hurt by the economy and still hasn't come close to recovering. Scores of empty seats and free tickets are given out at all but the biggest shows in town.
It's not the case when the Magdalenos fight, though, and it heartens Sanchez, who would be happy to cede his Kid Vegas moniker to the brothers.
"Boxing is a big thing in Las Vegas and they're helping to bring it back," Sanchez said. "That's good for everybody, for them, for the fans, for the sport. It would be a great boost if they could both be world champions at the same time. To me, that would be the dream."
Neither Diego nor Jessie Magdaleno argue that point. It's a dream for them as well.
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