INDIO, Calif., February 12, 2019 – Champions, contenders and prospects all hope their hard work will pay off Saturday night at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. Fans can watch their attempts on the DAZN live stream starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
In the main event, WBA super featherweight world champion Alberto “Explosivo” Machado of Puerto Rico (21-0, 17 KOs) puts both his belt and undefeated title on the line against well-liked high desert native Andrew Cancio (19-4-2, 14 KOs) of Blythe, California in what’s sure to be an all action fight. If both make it to the final bell, they’ll beat the betting odds.
Machado: Days at super featherweight may be numbered
There may be another super featherweight who holds a similar title, but Machado is the acknowledged true champion of the division. He’s big for the division at 5-foot-10, and whether he can stay at this weight much longer at age 28 is a big question mark. Machado says he’d like to fight four times this year, and may end up in the 135-pound lightweight division by the end of 2019.
For now, he made weight Friday and will take on a guy with nothing to lose in Cancio. “I am big for this division,” agreed Machado at the final pre-fight news conference. “I’m tall. I have power, and I have speed. Cancio is a great warrior. I’m ready to defend my title. It’s another challenge in my career and I’m happy for this opportunity.
“Everyone who saw my last fight saw that I did better. I will continue that momentum in this fight,” said Machado.
Cancio: ‘I knew that I could be here’
Cancio has bounced back after losing to another man on Saturday’s card working his way back to the top, Joseph Diaz Jr., and said he’s a very different fighter today. “I thought my career was done,” said Cancio. “I told my best friend I was going to retire. I missed the sport. I also had a lot to prove. But I knew that I could be here. I finally got things in order. I won some fights that people thought I would lose, but here I am. I’m looking to do the same thing February 9.”
“Life changed me. I got hit with some things that I had never seen coming. I guess it humbled me and changed me as a person … I didn’t take things for granted anymore. I had to come back and do things right this time around. This is a big deal. This is for a world title. It’s not my first time being on the big stage, but it’s the first time I’m the main event on the big stage. But I feel prepared for this. It’s my time.”
Machado continues to demonstrate impressive knockout power, scoring a swift first round knockout in 2:25 against Yuandale Evans in his last fight in October. Cancio knows he’ll need to nullify Machado’s power punching and his height and reach advantage by working on the inside, and working to the body. This makes for a fan friendly, all action fight. Cancio should fare better than Evans, but it would be a true upset and a thrill for all his local fans in the house in Indio should he win.
Rey Vargas defends WBC title after year away from the ring
On the undercard, WBC junior super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas of Mexico (32-0, 22 KOs) returns after a year out of the ring against but hard hitting Franklin Manzanilla of Venezuela (18-4, 17 KOs). Manzanilla may not be well known but he is a top 20 ranked opponent.
Vargas might be the most under the radar champion on the WBC roster despite 32 victories. In his last bout, Vargas injured his knuckle after a May barnburner against the always tough Azat Hovhannisyan. He’ll need to test the hand in his return Saturday. Vargas is taking the right attitude into the fight of ‘every opponent is dangerous,’ but it’s likely he’ll do exactly what he needs to do. He’ll then have an interesting array of potential opponents available, including interim titleholder Tomoki Kameda. Beyond a mandatory, there’s a unification with the likes of WBO champion Emannuel Navarrete who surprised Issac Dogboe, or even stablemate Diego De La Hoya.
Joseph Diaz Jr. making changes in 2019
On the undercard, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. of South El Monte, California (27-1, 14 KOs) takes on solid Southern California veteran Charles Huerta of Paramount (20-5, 12 KOs) in a 10 round super featherweight fight. This will be the first fight for Diaz with a new trainer, Indio’s own Joel Diaz (no relation).
It was a rough 2018 for Diaz, prompting him to make the change. He lost his first title shot against Gary Russell Jr., and then failed to make weight in his next fight. “It was a heartbreaking year,” admits Diaz. “Ever since I was kid, I was dreaming to become a world champion, and it didn’t happen that year … But at the end of the day I just had to keep having faith in God and know that everything happens for a reason. I just have to keep pushing forward because I’m a strong-minded person. I know my worth and skill level, and I know what I’m capable of doing. As long as I work hard, everything else will fall into place.”
Huerta is coming off a two year layoff. “Win, lose or draw, I’m always in a great fight. I always give a good fight for the fans, and I’m going to come and bring it. I’m going to give everybody an exciting show that night. Me and JoJo [Diaz] have sparred a few times, so he knows what I bring to the table, and vice-versa. But fights are different. Come February 9, we will find out,” said Huerta.
Undercard notes: Delgado looking for opponent, Johnson hopes for comeback
Former Golden Boy Ivan “Striker” Delgado of Los Angeles (13-1-2, 6 KOs) was scheduled to fight current Golden Boy lightweight prospect Genaro Gamez of San Diego (8-0, 5 KOs) but as of publication Delgado was still on the card with an opponent TBA. Delgado’s only loss came to Charles Huerta in 2017.
Gamez had moved up a weight division and said he feeling stronger and getting his rhythm back, but it won’t happen on Saturday.
Also on the undercard, Bahamian middleweight Tureano Johnson (20-2, 14 KOs) begins a comeback bid against Fernando Casteneda of Mexico (26-13, 17 KOs). Johnson was stopped by Sergiy Derevyanchenko in August 2017. Johnson was a once promising middleweight prospect, but he will turn 35 years old next Tuesday and the clock is ticking. It’s now or never for Johnson to get himself back into the competitive middleweight division.
Fans in the seats at Fantasy Springs and those watching worldwide on DAZN are sure to enjoy a tasty night of fights led by a classic Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry, with plenty of Mexican style on the undercard.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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