If WBA super featherweight champion Andrew Cancio had his way, he would have been defending his crown against Rene Alvarado on last Saturday’s Canelo Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev card in Las Vegas instead of at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio on November 23.
But if Thanksgiving goes as planned, “El Chango” may be big enough to fight Alvarez in 2020.
“My coaches won’t let that happen,” laughed Cancio, who still intends to “get my grub on” following what he expects to be a second successful title defense. “I’m gonna be a fat boy, I’m not gonna lie. I love Thanksgiving and I love eating. My grandma hooks it up with so much good food and I’m gonna have four days off that week.”
Cancio has earned those days off. Between his day job at the Southern California Gas Company and his life as a world champion and a father, there’s precious little down time, but that’s what the 31-year-old has been fighting for; at least the father and world champion parts. Now he wants the spoils of being a champion and the opportunity to be a full-time fighter.
“Hopefully, I do have a breakthrough year (in 2020) where I don’t have to work a full-time job and I can just focus on boxing,” he said. “But in order for me to do that, I’ve got to have the big paydays.”
Alvarado won’t be that big payday, but if he turns back the rugged Nicaraguan in a couple weeks, his plans are clear for next year, and they all involve adding more belts to his collection.
“God willing, if everything works out in our favor that night and we walk away with our belt, we definitely want to unify,” he said. “I know Jamel Herring said that he would like to fight me, Lamont Roach said that he would like to fight me and they’re fighting November 9th for the WBO title Jamel Herring has, so I would like to fight either one of those guys, or even (IBF champion) Tevin Farmer. I definitely want a rematch with Joseph Diaz if I can get one. And me and (WBC champion Miguel) Berchelt have the styles to match up for a great, great fight for fight fans. But yeah, I definitely want to unify. I want more belts.”
The prospect of fighting his fellow champions to determine one true king at 130 pounds is what keeps Cancio positive in the wake of the boxing politics that can sour any champion’s reign. You know, stuff like Leo Santa Cruz getting a shot to win a “Super” WBA super featherweight title against Miguel Flores on the same night Cancio defends his title from the same sanctioning body.
“That upsets me,” he said. “It’s a bunch of BS with that situation.”
If anything, dealing with such nonsense over the course has given Cancio some tough skin, so after winning fights he was supposed to lose on his way to his February title shot against Alberto Machado, he was comfortable in the role of the B-side fighter, and he upset the applecart with a fourth-round knockout of the previously unbeaten Puerto Rican.
It’s still the feel-good story of the year, and countless media outlets profiled Cancio and told how he juggled a world championship with a day job. But after he repeated the feat against Machado in their June rematch and did it a round earlier, the narrative changed. Now he wasn’t just the 2019 version of “The Cinderella Man;” he was a world champion whose interviews now focused on the fights ahead and not what he did on his work shift that week.
“I saw it especially after the second fight with Machado,” said Cancio. “Not only did I prove to everybody that it (the first fight) wasn’t a fluke, but I was able to win in impressive fashion once again. So after that, that’s when I think people were saying, ‘He is the real deal.’ And I plan to show the same set of skills November 23rd, and more and more people are going to be intrigued. As I prepare for each fight, I’m getting more and more recognition and people are definitely starting to get the buzz around me that I’m here to stay for the long haul. There’s a lot of good fights out there for me as long as I do my part of getting ready, preparing myself right and coming out victorious.”
I bring up Teddy Atlas’ assertion that a fighter who becomes a world champion becomes 30-percent better with the belt around his waist. Cancio doesn’t disagree.
“I think he’s correct,” he said. “From the first time in a title fight compared to now, you’ve got more confidence in yourself and you know what to expect and what to get ready for versus fighting for a world title and the unknown. You never reached that level before, you’ve got a lot of doubt, you’re scared, so I definitely do feel like you get 30-percent stronger mentally and physically. Everything is working now and you feel that much more confident when you walk into that ring as a world champion.”
Cancio’s confidence before meeting Alvarado a second time is evident, but he’s not dismissing the man he halted in eight rounds in December 2015.
“Rene Alvarado earned his right as a mandatory,” said the champion. “He was supposed to fight Machado before me and he’s on a seven-fight win streak, but I definitely feel like I’ve gotten better and I definitely feel like I still have the better technique, better punches and better combinations to win this fight and I’m very, very confident in that.
“But I’m going into the fight with the mindset that it’s going to be just as tough as the first fight,” Cancio continues. “The first fight was very tough. He’s in there to fight and in there to bang it out, and knowing that it’s going to be for my belt, he’s gonna come with everything and I’m gonna come with everything as well to make sure it stays where it belongs. I know what he likes to do, I know how hard he hits and I know a lot about him from the first fight. It’s going to be a different fight, but I’m going into it with the same mindset, that he is a very, very tough opponent.”
Sometimes tough ain’t enough, though, and Cancio knows that as tough as he’s always been, he had to add experience and some new tools to his attack to lift his game. And now that he’s got that championship belt, he’s ready for more.
“Things are definitely heading in the right direction,” he said. “All I had to do was win a belt, and after that keep retaining it. But next year I want the big fights and the big stage; I love Fantasy Springs, but I feel like we’ve outgrown that arena and I want to be on these bigger cards. I want to keep getting my fan base up and for people to get to know me more.”