Former junior lightweight world titlist Andrew Cancio has a new promoter, a new trainer and a new outlook as he aims for a fresh start after losing his belt by seventh-round knockout in November to Rene Alvarado, whom he had stopped in the eighth round when they met in a nontitle bout in 2015.
Going into their rematch, Cancio’s second defense after back-to-back upset knockouts of Alberto Machado to win the title and in his first defense, he was at odds with Golden Boy Promotions. Cancio was unhappy with his purses and that he was not being placed on bigger cards, so in the wake of the loss, Golden Boy released Cancio.
But Cancio was not a free agent for long. He signed in January with Top Rank, which happens to be loaded with top fighters in the junior lightweight division who could loom as possible opponents: world titleholders Miguel Berchelt and Jamel Herring, top contenders Oscar Valdez and Carl Frampton and featherweight world titlist Shakur Stevenson, who plans to soon move up to the division full time.
“Whatever (Top Rank chairman) Bob Arum and his team have in store for me I don’t care. I’m a fighter,” Cancio told BoxingScene.com. “I need to get a win under my belt and I need to show the people that I still got it. I don’t care what they throw at me with any of the 130-pounders because I’m a former world champion and I got there by winning fights I wasn’t supposed to win. I knew what I could do and now I want to continue on my path. I want to face the best out there and I want to make the most money I can.”
Cancio, who continues to hold down a day job working the lines at a Southern California gas company, also parted ways with trainer Joseph “Hoss” Janik with whom he had worked for the previous two-plus years and has since begun training with the renowned Joe Goossen.
With a new promoter and trainer in place, Cancio hopes to force his way into a bigger fight. He can start when he makes his Top Rank debut in a 10-rounder on July 16 (ESPN) on the undercard of the light heavyweight eliminator between former world titlist Eleider “Storm” Alvarez and Joe Smith Jr. at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Cancio was initially slated to fight Manuel Rey Rojas, whose six-fight winning streak ended when he dropped a decision to Felix Verdejo in a lightweight bout in January, at 131 pounds. However, the Nevada State Athletic Commission declined to approve the match and Top Rank is seeking a new opponent.
“I’m very pumped up,” Cancio said. "Top Rank wants to put me on bigger cards and get me to another world title shot. So, I’m very pumped up to be with another promotional company. Bob Arum has been around for ages and he’s done a great job with so many world champions. So, I’m excited about it. It’s a whole new team over here. I’m like a kid in a candy store. I’m excited for it. I’m just gonna train hard and put on a great show for the fight fans.”
Cancio, who welcomed his fourth child, a daughter, in May, said he did not split with Janik on bad terms but is happy with be with Goossen, an enormously experienced trainer, who has worked with many world champions.
“There were no issues with Coach Hoss. It was just me looking for a change,” Cancio said. “Something for me was just missing.”
Ray Chaparro, Cancio’s manager, thought Goossen would be a good match for Cancio. The fact that Cancio only lives about 20 minutes from Goossen’s gym in Van Nuys, California, was a bonus.
“My manager said, ‘The way you fight, that’s Joe all the way,’” Cancio said. “We reached out to him and he said yeah.”
So far, fighter and trainer said the pairing has been excellent.
“Joe said, ‘All the things I’m showing you you’re picking it up, we just need to tighten it up and add some things,’” Cancio said. “He works the hell out of me. It’s a lot of work but the transition has been going pretty well. Every day he’s pushing, pushing, pushing. He’s having me move my head a lot, a lot of slipping punches, weaving, all kinds of different things. He likes where we’re at and I’m loving it. It’s going great and I can’t wait until July 16. I’m ready to get back in there. I’m like a kid in a candy store. I’m excited. Every day is something different.”
Goossen limits the number of fighters he works with in order to give each of them his undivided attention. Currently, he trains only Cancio, heavyweights Kubrat Pulev and Chris Arreola and welterweight contender Sergey Lipinets. Goossen was familiar with Cancio from when he defeated the then-Goossen trained Daran Zenunaj in 2018.
Because Goossen has known and respected Chaparro for years, when he called about working with Cancio he was wiling to take him on. As they’ve gotten to know each other, Goossen said he is glad he did.
“I really respect his manager, Ray Chaparro,” Goossen told BoxingScene. “When Ray called me about Andrew I didn’t hesitate. I said let’s give it a shot. I wasn’t looking for the work, but I said I want to do this for you. Then I met Andrew and we were off and running. I like his personality and his work ethic.
“He’s my type of my guy. He’s good natured and he’s a bad ass, so right there you had me at hello. He’s very aggressive. He’s got a great pressure style. He’s got a very refined inside game and mid-range game. I think there that kind of plays into my hands. What I’ve been able to do is work on the minutia where I see flaws. He’s got a well-rounded style and he’s very efficient with it.
“He’s on time and he wants to be pushed. He said he just wants to work harder and wanted someone to work him harder, so he’s all in for my style.”
Cancio (21-5-2, 16 KOs), 31, a Blythe, California, native, had been scheduled to make his Top Rank debut against Tyler McCreary on April 25 on the undercard of the bantamweight title unification fight between Naoya Inoue and John Riel Casimero, but it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I either still got it or I don’t,” Cancio said. “That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. I didn’t make the top dollars over there (at Golden Boy). I always just got paid minimums, minimums, minimums, and this time around I want to get exposed to the world but I want to make sure I still have it, so it’s a good fight for me to show if I still got it.
“I got to show Top Rank what I have. Either I still have it or I don’t. I know what’s at stake for me. Either I’m going to continue on my path or I’m gonna retire. It’s one of the two. I want to continue. If I don’t look good or I don’t feel good anymore, it all depends. I think I have a few solid years left. Maybe three years. Who knows? My goal is to become a two-time world champion and then continue on my path and hopefully stack some chips for my family.”
Looking good next month likely will put Cancio in position for a much bigger fight.
“He just needs to get back in the ring with Joe Goossen and get a fight under his belt and then we’ll take to him and his camp and see what they’re ready for or what they’re looking for,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. “We have a bunch of 130s, so we’ll go from there. In a perfect world all of those (big names) are possible.”
That is just what Cancio wants to hear because he is chasing those bigger names.
“That’s what helped make my decision going with Top Rank, because there are a lot of good fighters there that I want to fight,” Cancio said. “Carl Frampton – I think him and I have a good style to mix it up. Oscar Valdez is moving up from 126 to 130. He’s fighting Berchelt. I’ve always said I wouldn’t mind fighting Berchelt. My dream fight would be Miguel Berchelt. We would mix it up pretty good. Jamel Herring is a southpaw and you know I don’t mind fighting southpaws.
“I’m not afraid of any one of these guys. We’re in the sport for a reason – to win world titles, to make as much money as possible. I’m not trying to run from nobody. All those names I would love to fight; each and every one of them. Shakur Stevenson is a great fighter. He’s done a helluva job at 126 pounds and when he moves up to 130 that’s gonna be another guy out there. I wouldn’t mind mixing it up with any one of those guys. Styles make fights and I think there are a lot of great styles there for me with the Top Rank roster. At this point in my career, I don’t care which one it is or whoever Top Rank throws at me.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.