By Thomas Gerbasi
Andrew Cancio had been in this position before. More than once. In fact, he practically made a career out of being the “B” side.
Rocky Juarez. Jerry Belmontes. Ronny Rios. Rene Alvarado. Joseph Diaz.
They were all fights the Ventura, California product was expected to lose, and he did lose a couple - one controversially (to Rios), one not (to Diaz). So when the call came for him to return from a nearly two-year long layoff to face 7-0 Aidar Sharibayev in April, he didn’t blink.
Instead, he got fired up.
“I get a little pissed off,” Cancio said. “They did that against Jerry Belmontes, they did that against Rene Alvarado, and here we were again against this Russian fighter. How many times do I have to continue to prove myself that I’m not this pushover? I’ve got four defeats but I think two of them are bulls**t. I don’t think Ronny Rios beat me, I don’t think ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez beat me. And here I am again. I do get a little chip on my shoulder, but I knew I was gonna win that fight when I accepted it. He was a young buck who hadn’t been in there with somebody who could take his punches and dish them out as well.”
At 43 seconds of the tenth round, Cancio removed the “0” from Sharibayev’s record, and the on-again off-again career of “El Chango” was on again. A month after his 18th pro win, he was signed by Golden Boy Promotions, a deal that kicks off with tonight’s ESPN main event against Dardan Zenunaj, and like you can’t avoid going back to a bad girlfriend, the 29-year-old Cancio couldn’t stay away from the ring.
“There you go,” Cancio laughs. “You miss the limelight, you miss the training, you miss everything about it. Not only that, but I know I have more to prove and I have more accomplishments that I want to reach, so it always got me back. And here I am and I’m thankful for it. I’m glad I’m still able to continue living my dream of being a professional fighter and giving the fans exciting fights.”
The bout against the 14-4 Zenunaj is expected to live up to Cancio’s prediction, and his foe has talked of this being a Gatti-Ward-esque showdown. That’s fine with Cancio.
“I embrace it,” he said. “Bring it on. I hate when I have to go look for them and take a couple rounds to catch them because they’re running around. He’s gonna come straight forward. Now I’ve certainly gotten a lot smarter, and I’m a veteran in there, so I’m not gonna go in there and just start whaling away hands down and getting two to give one. I’m gonna go in there smart, and if it becomes an inside fight, I’m still gonna do what I have to do. So I embrace it. We want those types of fights. Those are the fights that people remember.”
Cancio has delivered his share, but he’s never gotten the breaks other fighters have. That’s led to him walking away for extended periods twice, first from 2009 to 2011, and then from 2016 to 2018.
“I’ve hung up my gloves a couple times and thought I was done with it, but for some reason or another, I always end up coming back to boxing and I always end up doing what I know I can do and what I’m capable of doing,” said Cancio, who supplements his boxing income with a job that allows him to keep things comfortable for his nine-year-old daughter and his six-year-old son.
“Boxing wasn’t working out the way it was supposed to and I ended up getting a full-time job at the gas company,” said Cancio, whose 6:30am to 3pm shifts five days a week keep him hungry and add even more incentive for him to make the most of this opportunity in front of him.
“Everything is coming together the way I thought it was supposed to come together a long time ago,” he said. “Now it’s happening and now I believe in myself more than ever. Before, I was surprised that I reached the level that I reached. But now, I’m gonna go all the way. I’ve got a good team behind me, I’m hungry, I stay hungry and I don’t want my fights to go to the scorecards. I train hard and I feel like we’re almost there and I just have to keep pushing.”
Twelve years after his pro debut, Cancio is finally the “A” side. Right on time.
“I don’t think I have hit my prime yet, but I’m starting to,” he said. “This time around, I’ve been a lot healthier and it’s a lot better for me mentally and physically, so hopefully this run will be the one that gets me there.”