Back in the mid to late 1990s, NASA’s Theoretical Physics division consulted with pound for pound king Roy Jones Jr. in an effort to advance their studies on the possibilities of time travel. The thinking was that Jones’ preternatural reflexes and timing could provide insight into how matter could be converted into energy and transported through a fourth-dimensional portal. Jones provided insight into the mechanics of involuntary movement that even the most learned scholars in the field had not been exposed to and the relationship was suspended only after Jones suffered his first career defeat, a disqualification loss to Montell Griffin.
Is any of this remotely true?
Not even a little bit.
You started Googling it though, didn’t you? Didn’t you, YOU SONOFABITCH?! Sorry, that got away from me.
Boxing is about stories. Whether it be the myth of Willie Pep winning a round without throwing a single punch or the even more far-fetched tale of that time Chris Arreola did a push-up, the narrative surrounding the fights is nearly as important as the fights themselves.
Lucky for us, Andrew Cancio’s 2019 campaign has provided a whopping dollop of both.
After a loss to Joseph Diaz in September of 2016, Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KO), for all intents and purposes, retired from boxing. After a 19 month absence and with the rigors of a physically demanding 9-5 job at California gas company taking their psychic toll, Cancio decided to give the sport another go.
Two wins in 2018 put him in line to contend for a title against the undefeated Alberto Machado. To most observers, Cancio was an afterthought. The type of insignificant roadblock Cancio himself spent his grueling daytime hours jackhammering away at as Machado (21-2, 17 KO) prepped for bigger and better things.
When the two met at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif. on Feb. 9, the story seemed to be following the script. As Machado dropped Cancio early in round 1, he planned to dispatch of the unheralded jobber quickly and make it a short night with minimal wear and tear.
What’s the old John Lennon quote though?
Eatin’ ain’t cheatin’?
Wait, not that one.
Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Machado put a premature period on an unfinished sentence and proceeded to put his pencil down. Cancio would make sure that this story ended with an exclamation point.
After dropping Machado three times in round four with brutal body shots, the fight was stopped with Machado on one knee and Cancio celebrating what was, at the point, the upset of the year.
Cancio would return to the grind of his blue-collar job and Machado would visit a confused and nauseated urologist who would no doubt ask questions like “Why is it black?” and refer to his piss as Texas Tea while doing a barely recognizable Jed Clampett impression.
Machado would exercise his immediate rematch clause and the two returned to the scene of the original crime Friday night on a DAZN televised card.
Machado was eager to prove that the upset of the first fight was just that. That a stunted training camp mired by issues making weight had all led to the unfortunate result that followed, one that would surely be rectified in short order.
For Cancio, the rematch was an opportunity to prove that his victory the first time out was no happy accident. That, hey, fuck you, I belong here. That compared to his days of waking up before the sun, pounding the pavement in the murderous California heat and then training until the slight reprieve of nightfall, his opponent’s rumored weight issues were laughable.
From the first bell, the two men took their pent-up frustrations out on one another. Heavy shots in close quarters marked a fast-paced first round that leaned narrowly in Machado’s favor as his punches appeared just slightly crisper.
In the second round, Cancio went back to chopping away at Machado’s body on the inside. A short left uppercut near the end of the round sent Machado staggering and he needed a GPS unit to locate his corner as the bell rang.
Would the 60 second break between rounds be enough for Machado to gain a second wind and salvage the fight?
I’ll save you the suspense: It would not
The end came quickly and brutally in the third frame as Cancio unloaded a jackhammer of a left hook to Machado’s liver. After a delayed response and an unenthusiastic attempt to rise from his now familiar one knee position, Machado was counted out.
With blood streaming from his right eye, Cancio once again celebrated in front his hometown fans, though this time with an air of defiance and affirmation as opposed to the shocked exuberance of four months prior.
In boxing, you’re an underdog right up until you’re not. Against the big names at 130 lbs., Cancio will get to continue playing that role. Tevin Farmer, Gervonta Davis, Miguel Berchelt et al., will all be favored over Cancio and rightfully so.
As Cancio returns to work Monday morning, as he claimed he will do, it will be mostly token. He still has to put food on his family’s table of course, but the means to do so will now come from prizefighting.
As the next chapter in Andrew Cancio’s story is written, new writers will certainly be brought on board to help punch it up. Entering a new tax bracket has a way of expanding your payroll, doesn’t’ it? Let’s hope they don’t take his story in the wrong direction.
With source material this good, it would be nearly impossible. And this tale deserves a happy ending.
(Photo by Tom Hogan; Golden Boy Promotions)