Cancio's dream comes true, but he still keeps day job

Andrew Cancio, center, celebrates his KO victory over Alberto Machado with his promoters, Bernard Hopkins, left, and Oscar De La Hoya, right. Tom Hogan/Golden Boy Promotions

On Saturday night Andrew Cancio climbed off the canvas to defeat the heavily favored Alberto Machado in four rounds to capture the WBA "regular" junior featherweight title. By the time you read this, he will have already begun working his regular shift for the Southern California Gas Company.

Cancio (20-4-2, 15 KOs), 30, by night is a professional prizefighter. By day, he works the jackhammer as a construction technician.

He truly is a blue-collar boxer.

"We drive the big crew trucks and if there's a [gas] leak, we go out there and drill up all the holes, we center out the leaks to see where it is at and we break pavement," Cancio explained of his duties. "We do it till we find it, then we fix it, throw all the dirt back in."

Cancio has had this job since 2012.

"Whenever people are digging and they hit our lines, we go out there and fix it," he said. "We plant it and then we'll fix all the gas and stuff; we do a punch of pressure control. We do a lot. It's a physical job."

Unlike say Canelo Alvarez or Anthony Joshua -- who earn tens of millions for their outings -- Cancio still need this job to make ends meet. For the bout this past weekend, he earned $75,000, which certainly isn't bad, but it's not necessarily life-changing money, especially when raising two kids as a single father.

Cancio, from Blythe, California, had actually retired from the sport following his loss to Joseph Diaz in September 2016, when he was stopped in nine rounds at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

"I told everybody that I was done, I told my best friend, I told my team. I was done, I wanted no part of boxing," recalled Cancio, who was irked by his performance that particular night. "That was not the Andrew Cancio that I know, that was not me. So I did not want to leave the sport like that. I had a lot more to prove."

In 2017, Cancio was dormant, not fighting once.

But like many others who leave the sport, Cancio says he started getting the itch. And he still had dreams. When his daughter, Audrina, 10, and son, Ethan, 7, encouraged him to return to the ring, his mind was made up.

As he faced the undefeated Aidar Sharibayev (who was 7-0 at the time) last April, his kids were in attendance at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.

"I had never allowed them to watch me, but I started thinking, I don't know when my career's going to be over and I want them to see exactly how hard I work to get to where I'm at right now. Since then, they've been watching me fight," Cancio said.

"We drive the big crew trucks and if there's a [gas] leak, we go out there and drill up all the holes, we center out the leaks to see where it is at and we break pavement. We do it till we find it, then we fix it, throw all the dirt back in." Andrew Cancio

After stopping Kazakhstan's Aidar Sharibayev in Round 10, Cancio defeated the rugged Dardan Zenunaj last August over 10 rounds.

As he prepares for battle, nobody in boxing puts in a full day's work the way Cancio does.

"Whenever I'm in training camp, I get up at 4:30 [a.m.] and I get my running out of the way. After that, I head down to Simi Valley; that's the base where I work out of and I report for work at 6:30," said Cancio, whose shift usually ends around 3 p.m. Fortunately, for him, Cancio gets support from the higher-ups at the Southern California Gas Company.

"The guys there, the supervisor, they know whenever I'm training for a fight, they try to get me off on time. They're a big supporter of me," said Cancio. "After [work], I take off back to Ventura, and I train from about 4:30 to about 7:30. Then I go home, drink my amino and my vitamins, eat, go to bed and do it all over again."

Wednesday is the only day that Cancio takes off from the gym.

His lead trainer, Joseph "Hoss" Janik, says that because of the rigorous work Cancio does prior to coming to KnuckleHeadz Boxing Gym, accommodations are made for him.

"We definitely have to, with the time he spends on the jackhammer, the sledgehammer and shovel, that's really the majority of his strength and conditioning," Janik said. "We do one day specifically, Sunday, where we focus solely on his strength and conditioning. Other than that, we have to use the time we have to do skill training, his boxing, sparring and stuff. So we do have to cut corners in that respect."

Janik says that along with welterweight Francisco Santana, Cancio is the hardest-working fighter he has ever worked with -- but with one key difference.

"[Santana] is in a real solid marriage, so he gets the support at home," said Janik, who began working with Cancio after his loss to Diaz. "Andrew's been in and out of relationships and kind of does it by himself with a little bit of help from his family and friends. So he's basically a single dad and a full-time worker. So it puts him at the top of that list."

The fight against Machado (20-0, 17 KOs), while a home game of sorts for Cancio (as Blythe is less than a hundred miles from Indio), was one that saw him as the B-side. It was Machado, a tall, rangy, hard-punching southpaw from Puerto Rico, who was the boxer on the rise, headed to bigger and better things. Cancio, a solid professional, was thought to be nothing more than a speed bump for Machado.

And fighting in front of his fans, things began rather ignominiously for Cancio, as he was sent to the canvas in the first round from a left uppercut.

"I was like, 'Oh well, here we go,' I didn't see it coming and after he knocked me down, I looked at my corner, and just grabbed my composure and I thought about the Rocky Juarez fight, when I got dropped in that fight," Cancio recalled. "I told myself, 'All right, you're not hurt, you just got caught and just make sure you have your hands up and you move your head and don't let him get you again.'

"After that, I was like, 'OK, here we go, we're in a fight.' That's when all the jitters went away, and after that I was focused, but before then I was a little nervous and skittish."

Despite getting knocked down early on, Cancio battled back late in the first round and began to assert himself by the second round, closing ground on his taller foe and landing lead left hooks and straight right hands. Any punches landed by Machado were now shrugged off by Cancio, who was clearly dictating the pace of the fight.

"Second round, by the time Machado walked back to the corner, he knew it was going to be a fight," said Janik, as Cancio had begun to chip away quickly at the defending champion. Round 3 was dominated by Cancio as the crowd began to sense that an upset was brewing.

"Whenever I can feel somebody start to deteriorate and whenever it becomes easier and easier to get inside, and every time I touched him to the body, I saw him getting hurt," Cancio said. "And then I started landing my uppercut. Basically, I just started dictating the fight and it was easy for me to go inside on him. I thought it was going to be harder and his jab was going to be faster. It wasn't what I thought.

"[Machado] didn't like the pressure I was giving him and that's when I was like, 'OK, let's go.'"

It was in the fateful fourth round when Cancio nailed Machado with a straight right to the gut -- on "the sweet spot," according to Cancio -- and Machado would take a knee. It was the first of three knockdowns that stanza, all of them caused by body blows to Machado, who seem to deflate right in front of everyone's eyes.

As Machado was sent down for the third time, referee Raul Caiz Jr. waved off the fight. It was a stunning turnaround, just as quick as it was dramatic and shocking.

Just like that, Cancio captured a major belt.

"Everything I was working for came true that night, all my dreams came true that night, and it was just a lot of emotions, the ups and downs, the heartaches, everything," said Cancio, in describing his emotions at that time. "It was crazy, I'm still in shock. I haven't even gathered all of it up yet. It's like, 'I can't believe that I trained hard and all my hard work paid off.'"

While he made his dreams come true on Saturday night, by Tuesday morning he had the reality of going back to his "other" job.

"It's going to be the same -- I'm going to clock in with the guys, I'm nobody different, I'm going to be the same person," Cancio said the morning after his momentous victory. "I'm a world champion, but at the end of the day I still have a responsibility and I'm going to clock in the way I always do and work just as hard as I've always worked."

And when his first title defense is scheduled, Cancio said he'll be ready.

"I'll go back to training camp and I'll do it all over, again."