WILDWOOD — Chuck Mussachio is going back to fighting guys his own size tonight.

The Wildwood Crest native and Middle Township resident returns to the light-heavyweight division in an eight-round bout against Billy Bailey, of Bakersfield, Calif., at Bally’s Atlantic City.

Mussachio (17-2-2, 5 KOs) briefly jumped to cruiswerweight six months ago in order to challenge USBA champion Garrett Wilson.

Mussachio was ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards through 11 rounds of the Nov. 19, 2011 fight but was knocked out for the first time in his career in the 12th.

“I’m still not over it,” Mussachio said Thursday during an interview at the Wildwood Boxing Club.

“I’m still mad because of the way I lost. If I had gotten beat up and then knocked out, I would be OK with it.

‘But I was executing my game plan and winning the fight after 11 rounds. But title fights are 12 rounds and he did what he had to do to win it.

“I know those guys at cruiserweight are too big for me, but I had to take the shot. If I had beaten Wilson, I was supposed to get a world title fight in Germany and make $250,000. Now I’m back to light-heavyweight to stay, unless of course someone else offers me $250,000 again to fight at cruiserweight.”

Mussachio’s main goal now is to go after the USBA title at light-heavyweight. A victory over Bailey (11-14, 4 KOs) could lead to a bout against current champ Yusef Mack or another contender should Mack opt to vacate the title.

USBA champs earn at least a top-15 ranking in the IBF’s world ratings. (Mack is No. 7 in the IBF). Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs) is the IBF’s light-heavyweight champion.

“Realistically, I think I’d have a tough time against (WBC light-heavyweight champ) Chad Dawson and (former light-heavyweight and middleweight champ) Bern-ard Hopkins because of their experience,” Mussachio said. “But I definitely think I’m in the same league as Tavoris Cloud. He’s very good, but he likes to come right after guys and I usually do pretty well against fighters like that.”

Such goals won’t be possible if he doesn’t beat Bailey, however.

The tendency is to look at Bailey’s mediocre record — he’s lost nine of his last 10 fights — and think that he’s a pushover. But both Mussachio and his father/co-trainer Al Mussachio know better.

They were in the stands at South Philadelphia High School on Jan. 31, 2009 when Bailey took on Philadelphia slugger Brian Cohen. Cohen, who is now 15-2 with 14 KOs, was 10-1 at the time and owned a couple of regional belts.

Bailey knocked him out in the second round.

“Cohen came into the ring with three belts around his waist,” Al Mussachio said at the Wildwood Boxing Club. “He didn’t have any after that fight. He left the ring on a stretcher. Chuckie definitely can’t overlook Bailey because he’s a tough fighter.”

Mussachio, 32, has been busy the last six months. In addition to training at Wildwood, the Atlantic City PAL and North Beach Health Club in Lower Township, he’s also been working as a part-time guidance counselor at Avalon Elementary School. In his spare time, he’s been pursuing a second master’s degree in substance abuse counseling at Richard Stockton College.

Punchlines: Mussachio is dedicating tonight’s fight to the memory of his lifelong friend, Adam Franz, who died unexpectedly on May 16, 2011 at age 31. ... He will be accompanied into the ring by Bailey Soens, a seventh-grade student at Avalon.

Mussachio-Bailey is among seven fights on tonight’s card, which is promoted by Russell Peltz. The 10-round main event pits Philadelphia junior-middleweight Jamaal Davis (12-8-1, 6 KOs) against Newark’s Eberto Medina (6-7-1, 1 KO). They fought to a draw at Bally’s last year. Medina is replacing Harry Joe Yorgey (24-1-1, 11 KOs), who pulled out of the fight with a shoulder injury.

Contact David Weinberg:

609-272-7186