When my father was just a kid, at the plaza of what is now known as the city of Cabadbaran, he took the challenge that was offered in the open to fight the reigning champion in a slugfest in honor of Nuestra Seniora de Candelaria. He took the fight to him all right, being the fighting man that I know he was, surprising the champ by stepping up from among the crowd to beat him fair and square, as family legend has it.
While parents instinctively rush to check a child’s face upon knowledge of a fight my grandmother almost collapsed on her place the very instance dope of it reached her ears. I guess it goes without saying that not too many parent-boxer tandems succeed in the higher levels of the sport for that special relationship both parties have for each other. So when Irvin Magno (3-2-1) fought Fonz Alexander (3-3) on May 27, 2017 at the Bowler’s Arena in Manchester, I pondered how his father, Mr. Ian Magno, who passed away before he decided to turn professional, would have fared on his corner.
At 5’11” Fonz Alexander could have easily kept a much shorter fighter (5’6” in this case) at a distance with his jabs. It’s the logical thing to do, to fight tall and safest by picking his shots; to let the burden of proving oneself be on Irvin Magno who must bring the fight against the odds. But Alexander was not able to do that at all. His jab didn’t come as often as expected and Magno made him miss by regularly tipping his head to his left, dipping his left shoulder to signal his intentions of throwing a lethal uppercut to the body.
Surprisingly, despite the shorter reach, it was Magno who controlled that part of the fight. It’s like having a point guard dominate the rebounding department in a game of hoops. He staggers his opponent with the supposedly weaker hand, walks him down the corner, back heavy against the ropes, for some roughhousing.
Irvin Magno would put together six-punch combinations unanswered, and there are now clever variations to his punches, so it becomes harder to counter. He wouldn’t throw all his weight on a single attempt and lean back with cunning, and finish it up with beautifully timed fusillades. Occasionally, Fonz Alexander would come up with a wide hook, hoping to plot an escape route with it. But Magno would hunker down low, as if lying for cover in a field from an air assault and jump back up to return fire with hooks of his own.
From being a hard-nosed fighter, Irvin Magno is evolving into something way much slicker. His father wouldn’t worry too much now about a broken nose or a broken jaw because he’s learning the toughest part of boxing quite nicely: Defense. Everyone can punch, sure, like all them folks at a high-end gym looking so pretty and cute, but not everyone can detect something coming a mile away, as it were, with one’s ears close to the ground. In fact, he’s synchronizing his offense-defense with his jab effectively by tilting his head whenever he throws it, propelled by those powerful legs. It’s like slipping inside a small crack in the cave of Alexander’s defense, if you ask me. And then Alexander bears the brunt of his punches, and Magno sure can string them up deftly that it oddly reminds me of grandmother in her room doing some weave work in her turn-of-the-century home near the park.
It seems that his weight program is working wonders. This has been my primary concern when I first saw him going at it, fearing it may compromise his flexibility. Just a couple of months ago I asked the greatest living fighter in history, the “Sugar” Ray Leonard himself about using weights in boxing, and his reply directly validated my thoughts on the subject.
No, the late Ian Magno wouldn’t have to worry too much all right. In the first place, his son had taken his toughest lessons to heart after settling with a draw and being given two straight losses he certainly did not deserve. In the second place, he’s not letting his three straight victories go to his head. From offense to defense, in victory or in defeat, everything seems to be transitioning smoothly like the slick champion boxer he wants to be. Ian Magno could not have left him all this time and IS doing a great job. All concerned would refuse to believe otherwise.