INDIO, Calif., February 9, 2019 – If there was ever a crowd who could will a challenger to become a champion, it was Andrew Cancio’s hometown fans at the Fantasy Springs Casino from nearby Blythe, California, along with his co-workers from Southern California Gas Company where Cancio works a full-time job repairing gas lines.
Their excitement doubled when Cancio (20-4-2, 15 KOs) stopped Alberto Machado (21-1, 17 KOs) of Puerto Rico in four rounds to become the new WBA super featherweight champion. It was Machado’s first defeat as a professional.
Both men predicted an all-action fight, and they delivered. Cancio came right at Machado, but the road to his victory had to go around a big roadblock when Machado knocked Cancio down with a left hook. Cancio beat the count and survived the rest of the first round. “My head cleared, and I relaxed,” said Cancio after the fight.
For the next three rounds, Cancio worked his gameplan of going to the much taller Machado’s body. “My corner told me he was standing up, and to attack he body. Body, body, body, body.” Cancio turned out to have the firepower needed to execute this plan, and Machado seemed surprised at how effectively Cancio was able to get to him.
In the fourth round, Cancio dropped Machado with the first body shot, the classic left hook to the liver. Machado beat the count, and Cancio knew it was his chance. He scored a second knockdown with body work, and Machado beat the count far more slowly the second time. Cancio closed the show with the third and final knockdown at 2:16 of round four. The hometown crowd was on its feet and doubled its cheers for the new local champion.
“This was the fight of my LIFE,” said Cancio, with his seven year old son and 10 year old daughter at his side. “I feel extremely great winning this world title by knockout. I did not let this fight go to the judges’ scorecards.
“It’s been a long road and it felt like we thought it would: unbelievable. For this to go down the way it did after all the struggles, to bring home a world title … I trained hard for this night. I’m very proud, blessed, and thankful.”
A disappointed Machado said “i felt weak in there. the rematch would be nice, but I think I have to move up to 130 pounds. We will see.” It’s a wise idea. Machado is an extremely tall super featherweight, and it may benefit him to come back in a higher weight division.
See our exclusive post-fight interview here.
Cancio gave credit to his corner for convincing him to give boxing one more try, and for putting together the right gameplan.
“I knew I had a lot to prove, and I know my abilities,” said Cancio. “For me to execute a plan like we did feels great. He caught me early, but it was a flash knockdown. I got my legs back and got my composure. I was never out of the fight. I’m extremely happy.”
So are the many fans who found their way into the casino and restaurants to celebrate the victory of their local hero, and Blythe’s biggest celebrity. Good news for Cancio: he’s got the day off his regular job on Monday to relax with his family and enjoy his hard-won victory.
Rey Vargas remains undefeated, outlasts Franklin Manzanilla in messy match up
WBC super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas of Mexico (33-0, 22 KOs) shook off the ring rust, making a successful return after a year out of the ring against Franklin Manzanilla of Venezuela (18-5, 17 KOs) in a unanimous decision. Scores were 117-108 on all three scorecards.
Manzanilla promised the fight would be a war, and he made good on his promise. A rough fighter who knows every trick in the book, Manzanilla bullied Vargas to allow him to get inside on the taller man. When it worked, Manzanilla popped Vargas with solid hooks, including a left hook to the chin after a right upper cut that knocked Vargas down in the first round. It was just the third knockdown of Vargas’ career.
Then Manzanilla let it go to waste by getting docked two points by referee Raul Caiz for rabbit punches in round seven and again in round eight. Meanwhile, Vargas had recovered nicely from the knockdown, and with his feet under him, he did a better job avoiding Manzanilla while drilling him with his long jab and following up with power punches in the openings he created.
Vargas suffered a cut over the left eye, and the ringside physician examined Vargas carefully during the breaks between the final three rounds. It didn’t seem to be much of a factor.
“I never talk smack. I always fight clean. I won’t fight dirty like he does,” said Vargas. He credited the win to his career and experience. It was complicated and he’s tough. But I adjusted to his style and that’s how I won. I wished he would have fought cleaner, but I did what I could.”
Manzanilla said the four-inch height advantage for Vargas was challenging. “I felt uncomfortable because he was taller than me. I haven’t fought anyone that tall before. I hurt him in the second round, and I was trying to continue that momentum. I feel I did well,” said Manzanilla.
Chalk up Vargas’s rough night in part to Manzanilla, and partly to ring rust after being off for a year. He knew Manzanilla could be dangerous, and he played it smart and prevailed.
Vargas says his goal is to unify the division. “I want to fight to get all the belts, all four belts,” naming WBA champion Daniel Roman at the top of the list which also includes WBO champion Emannuel Navarrete, and IBF champion T.J. Doheny of Australia.
Joseph Diaz Jr. continues comeback, winning SoCal showdown against Charles Huerta
In a SoCal showdown, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. of South El Monte, California (27-1, 14 KOs) took the solid veteran Charles Huerta of Paramount (20-5, 12 KOs) apart over ten well-fought rounds in the super featherweight division. Scores were 99-91 on all three judges’ scorecards.
Under the direction of his new trainer Joel Dia and fighting in a new weight class for the first time at 130 pounds, Diaz Jr. picked Huerta apart round by round, hurting him in early rounds to the body, and then adding wicked hooks from both sides in combination. Huerta had the bloody mouth from his longtime friend to show for it.
Huerta was coming off a two-year layoff, but his only stoppage loss was ten years ago. Diaz wasn’t able to put Huerta on the canvas by the final bell. Nevertheless, he was pleased with his performance.
“I felt really good, we put on a great fight for all the fans … this weight might be it,” said Diaz Jr. He thanked his new team, saying he was very focused, very determined. “I was able to look good and push back a big super featherweight in Huerta. I had him hurt a few times, but I couldn’t finish him because he’s such a great warrior. At the end of the day, I had to do my job and that’s what I did.”
Huerta didn’t disagree with the decision. “Besides the first round, I took the pedal off the gas. I waited too much,” said Huerta. “He countered me well, and I let him dictate the pace. I had a 17-month layoff, and I feel I did well. I hope I come back for another opportunity soon.” Huerta said fighting his good friend Diaz Jr. brought out their competitive best.
After the bout, while Diaz Jr. said he planned to stay at 130 pounds, he would drop back to featherweight to fight a big name like Miguel Berchelt, Leo Santa Cruz, or even Tevin Farmer. It doesn’t seem like a wise idea. Based on his solid performance, Diaz Jr. should settle in at 130 pounds and not look back at what might have been.
Estrella hands Duarte first loss in an upset split decision
In an upset, Oscar Duarte of Mexico (15-1-1, 10 KOs) suffered his first defeat against a tough Adrian Estrella of Mexico (29-3, 24 KOs). Scorecards were 98-92 (Pat Russell) and 96-94 (Sergio Caiz) for Estrella, and 97-93 (Rudy Barragan) for Duarte. Estrella takes the vacant WBC Continental Americas lightweight title.
Duarte has solid fundamental skills, moving forward with patience and mixing up punches nicely. He was the one backing up Estrella. But the veteran found his rhythm and raised his punch output round by round. Without the ability to stop Estrella, the challenger won by being the far busier fighter in the ring.
“This is something I’ve worked hard to get for many years,” said an elated Estrella. “Working my distance was key in this fight. It’s hard to knockout Oscar Duarte. And he was getting stronger in every round. So, I decided to jab and work the distance. I got a split decision, but that’s okay. As long as I get the win, that’s fine with me.”
““I don’t think the decision was right. I thought it was a draw. I was pressuring the whole time. I feel I need to learn a lot more, admitted Duarte after the fight. It’s a lesson for Duarte, and at age 23 it’s the kind of loss which can benefit him as he steps up in opposition as his career progresses.
Hovhannisyan wins second straight fight by knockout
In early action, Azat “Crazy A” Hovhannisyan of Los Angeles (16-3, 13 KOs) got back in the win column and added a fifth-round knockout to his resume over Lolito Sonsona of the Philippines (22-3-4, 3 KOs). Hovhannisyan wears his nickname like a shield, and went straight after Sonsona, working him hard to the body. He scored two knockdowns and got a barrage of complaints about low blows before putting an end to the fight at 2:38 of the round.
I feel good about the fight,” said Hovhannisyan. “I trained hard for this fight. I’m surprised he [Sonsona] prepared so well. I wish I could have looked better, but a win is a win and a knockout is a knockout. I hope to look better next time!” Hovhannisyan now has two knockout wins since his loss to Rey Vargas last year.
Middleweights Johnson and Casteneda deliver split draw slugfest
Bahamian middleweight Tureano Johnson (20-2-1, 14 KOs) hoped for a good showing in his comeback effort against Fernando Castañeda of Mexico (26-13-1, 17 KOs). But Castañeda had other plans. The pair fought to a ferocious split draw, with scores of 77-75 apiece and 76-76 on the scorecards.
The journeyman challenger Castañeda put up a ferocious effort, and the eight-round middleweight bout became a phone booth fight. The crowd was all about it, and began to cheer for the underdog Castañeda. Johnson had a slow start, but began scoring with excellent upper cut work in the middle rounds. Castañeda ended the fight with a wild flurry of body shots, and he had Johnson pinned. It’s fortunate for Johnson that referee Wayne Hedgpeth doesn’t have a quicker trigger finger.
A disappointed Johnson said, “He [Castaneda] did an awesome job. It is a disappointment for me, but now I’m looking for bigger and better things.” Johnson said the outcome wasn’t due to overlooking Castañeda. “We came and we prepared. My corner was there. I didn’t execute the way I should have. I wasn’t listening to my corner. This is just an obstacle in our way. Next time I will do better. Tureano will be back.”
Castañeda was thrilled with the outcome. “We did a good fight. It was against a fighter without a lot of experience. I want a rematch because I did a good job. I worked him to the body and wore him down. I’m very happy, everyone showed me some love. Thank you! I want to thank Golden Boy for this opportunity.”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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