Alberto Machado is determined to put the first loss of his career behind him. His stunning fourth-round KO at the hands of Andrew Cancio in February put an end to Machado's unblemished record and cost Machado his "regular" junior lightweight title.
As Machado (21-1, 17 KOs) prepared for Friday's fight and a chance to regain his belt from Cancio (20-4, 15 KOs), there was one key difference between this camp and the one leading up to Machado's loss: an extra two weeks at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California.
As he trained for Cancio the first time, Machado was late in arriving to work with head trainer Freddie Roach, as family concerns diverted his attention from the task at hand.
"I didn't talk too much about this because I want to give all the credit to Cancio -- he made it work, he won the fight," Cancio told ESPN. "But now you question me [about it], I had a situation with my family, I have a baby, 1-year-old, he had surgery."
According to Machado, his son, Oseias, had a procedure on his groin.
"So I had to attend to my wife," Cancio said. "The process of recuperation for a child is very difficult. It was difficult to come here and I came here in [a] condition that I was not used to."
Machado, 28, has been a 130-pounder since the beginning of a career that began in 2012. With his tall, lanky frame -- he's listed at 5-foot-10 -- it's a struggle for him to make weight in the most ideal circumstances. The added pressure on his home life upset a delicate balance that's needed during a big weight cut.
"I didn't have the power to finish him. I know the feeling of when I have my opponent hurt and I can finish him. But I couldn't finish him because I didn't have the power, I didn't have the energy." Alberto Machado
"Those two weeks that he missed were very crucial," Roach said. "He's one of those guys that needs that time to get the weight off."
Said Machado: "Two weeks before the fight, I had 17 pounds to lose."
One week out, he was still 11 pounds from the junior lightweight limit, and it didn't get much better in the final days.
"One day before the weigh-in, [I was] six pounds [over]," Machado said. "It's hard for me, but I take all the responsibility."
Manager Juan De Leon said the process for his fighter to make 130 was more difficult than usual. Meals were cut, and Machado consumed smaller portions when he did eat.
"I could see he was struggling to make weight," De Leon said. "I saw him spitting in a cup," which is done by fighters desperately looking to drop a few ounces.
Still, the fight against Cancio started off well enough for Machado, who fought on enemy turf at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, not too far from where Cancio grew up in Blythe. In the first round, Cancio was sent to the canvas by a Machado uppercut. But Cancio dusted himself off, and proceeded to fight on even terms in the second round. Then he began to push Machado back in the third, winning some heated exchanges.
The fourth round was a nightmare for Machado, who was sent to the canvas three times -- mostly because of a two-fisted body attack by Cancio. After the third knockdown, referee Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the fight. Just like that, in sudden and dramatic fashion, the belt had changed hands.
"I didn't have the power to finish him," recalled Machado, whose legs simply were not there on this night. "I know the feeling of when I have my opponent hurt and I can finish him. But I couldn't finish him because I didn't have the power. I didn't have the energy."
That feeling remains fresh in Machado's mind, but Cancio, 30, has been listening to Machado's complaints since February. The fight played was a major moment in Cancio's career, and Machado's talk about why the fight played out the way it did has made this into a bit of a grudge match for Cancio -- a chance to prove it wasn't a fluke.
"They use the weight excuse as the reason why he got beat up. He went up against a guy that can get hit, got knocked down, got back up, and fought even harder. I told people he's never been in the ring with a fighter like me." Andrew Cancio on his upset victory over Alberto Machado
"I got a chip on my shoulder," Cancio said, believing that credit for what he accomplished has been diminished by Machado. "So now I'm going in there more confident and I already know what to get you with and I'm going to dig down even more this time.
"They use the weight excuse as the reason why he got beat up. He went up against a guy that can get hit, got knocked down, got back up, and fought even harder. I told people he's never been in the ring with a fighter like me.
"We didn't hear no excuses until after he lost."
Just a week after sitting down with reporters, Machado went through a full workout with Roach at the Wild Card Boxing Club last Thursday, eight days before the rematch. As Machado worked the pads with Roach, with his shirt off, he had a lean and shredded muscular look. Not only does he look like a well-built lightweight, you see a physique that wouldn't be out of place at junior welterweight.
At that moment, he was hovering a pound or two above 135, making it easy to wonder where there is room to shave off the extra weight in a steady cut. Extrapolate that, and it looks as though Machado could be in for another difficult and agonizing process to get down to the junior lightweight limit. But this time, with the consultation of Ramon E. Negron, a sports medicine doctor from Puerto Rico, De Leon says he has been monitoring everything and cooked every meal throughout this camp for his fighter with organic ingredients.
After this particular training session at the Wild Card, which ended with time on the treadmill, Machado, at the behest of his manager, shows what he has been eating during his stay in Southern California. You see oatmeal, eggs and avocados, and various omelettes for breakfast. On Sunday, he had steak and eggs with a side of cottage cheese. The lunch and dinner menu has included tuna, salmon, red meat and chicken, all surrounded by salads and vegetables. Pasta is even in the rotation. The calories are adjusted depending on the upcoming workload in the day.
"He's eating very good," De Leon said.
The difference between excuses and a justified explanation probably will come down to how this second fight plays out. For Machado, this rematch has been on his mind almost from the very moment he was stopped in February.
"When the fight finished, I know, myself -- I can beat him," Machado said firmly.
Some were surprised by Machado's decision to immediately enforce the rematch clause he held with Cancio. Machado made it clear to his management and Cotto Promotions that before he moved up to lightweight, he had unfinished business to take care of with Cancio.
So what does he think will be different in the rematch?
"The preparation," insisted "El Explosivo" Machado, who promises that, "the real Machado" will show up this time. "I'm very motivated, my weight is good, I feel great."