Andrew Cancio, boxing's blue-collar champion, fights for the love of the sport

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Andrew Cancio (L) lands a left against Alberto Machado (R) during the WBA super featherweight title bout at Fantasy Springs Casino on Feb. 9, 2019 in Indio, California. (Getty Images)
Andrew Cancio (L) lands a left against Alberto Machado (R) during the WBA super featherweight title bout at Fantasy Springs Casino on Feb. 9, 2019 in Indio, California. (Getty Images)

The concept of being a full-time boxer who earns such large purses that he can buy multiple luxury cars, outfit himself with designer clothes and jewelry and be a VIP guest at the trendiest night spots is a foreign one to Andrew Cancio.

Cancio is the WBA super featherweight champion, who Friday on DAZN will defend his belt at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, against Alberto Machado, the previously unbeaten champion he took the belt from with a fourth-round knockout in February.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

Cancio isn’t near rich and still works a day job as a leak repairman for the Southern California Gas Company. It’s grueling, manual labor often done in the blistering hot sun, but Cancio doesn’t see any alternative.

“I’m 100 percent committed to boxing, it’s just that I don’t get to stay at home and rest all day,” Cancio told Yahoo Sports. “I have kids, and I haven’t made the big money. I haven’t made s--- in boxing, to tell you the truth. In the 13 years I’ve been a pro, I had a $50,000 payday with JoJo Diaz; I had a $75,000 payday with Machado the last time, and this one is $125,000. The rest of them were all $8,000 a fight, like that.

“So I haven’t made a lot of money from boxing. I do it because I love it. I’ve kind of gotten the short end of the stick where I had these take-it-or-leave-it offers. I still have no big endorsement deals and no sponsorship deals.”

And so, Cancio goes to his job each day, earning an honest living with a 9-to-5 gig. He has to find time to train around his responsibilities at work and as a father.

He gets that he’d be better off if he only had to worry about boxing. But there are larger considerations he faces.

“I have kids and I have to raise them, and they need insurance,” Cancio said. “It’s starting to turn around, I guess, now that I’m a world champion, but I haven’t really made s--- in boxing yet. Last year, I made $100,000 with the gas company, and that’s without getting beaten up. I’m not supporting my family with boxing. The job pays the bills. I love boxing, and that’s why I do it.”

Even the $125,000 purse he’ll earn for the rematch with Machado isn’t as it seems. State and federal taxes will come off the top, and after he pays his trainers, his manager and everything else he’ll owe for going through camp, he estimates that’s another 36 percent chunk of his money gone.

“And now, being in a title fight, sanctioning fees are coming out of my check, man,” he plaintively said. “There are a lot of deductions and that check gets eaten up pretty quickly.”

Boxers frequently use the media to market themselves to increase their popularity and thereby try to earn larger purses, but also to gain sponsorships. But it’s tough for Cancio to do media outside of fight week. He spoke to Yahoo Sports on Monday during his lunch break from his full-time job.

Andrew Cancio celebrates his win by KO over Alberto Machado (not pictured) during their WBA super featherweight title bout at Fantasy Springs Casino on Feb. 9, 2019 in Indio, California. (Getty Images)
Andrew Cancio celebrates his win by KO over Alberto Machado (not pictured) during their WBA super featherweight title bout at Fantasy Springs Casino on Feb. 9, 2019 in Indio, California. (Getty Images)

None of it, though, is an excuse from Cancio, who stunned Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya when he upset Machado in February. Cancio went down in the first, but dropped Machado three times and knocked him out in the fourth.

De La Hoya was earning big-time purses almost immediately upon turning pro after winning an Olympic gold medal in 1992, but he understands what drives guys like Cancio.

“There are guys out there who are great fighters, extremely talented, who don’t get the chance because they’re dealt the wrong cards,” De La Hoya said. “Cancio is a perfect example, but he’s finally hit the royal flush. ...

“Cancio is a guy who never gave up on his craft and wasn’t willing to walk away from his dream. Even though he works those long hours and is tired from a tough day of work and still has to go to the gym to train, it’s difficult, but he does it and it’s why he’s such a special fighter and a special person. He showed everyone, if you want something and are willing to sacrifice, you can do it if you never give up.”

Machado was highly regarded and Golden Boy saw star potential in him when he was stopped by Cancio. If Cancio wins the rematch, that will legitimize him as a champion and put him into position to start making the big money.

He’s never, though, going to go crazy with it. He doesn’t want to look ahead, but it’s telling that he says he wants to be able to save money.

But he knows this bout could be as life-changing as his title-winning effort in February was.

“I think I’ll prove I belong at this level after I beat him again,” Cancio said. “And then maybe things will start to happen. We’ll see.”

He’s learned the hard way not to expect too much and to work for everything he wants. That attitude will resonate with his fans, many of whom have the same concerns he faces.

De La Hoya saw the pride in the faces of Cancio’s neighbors in Blythe, California, when they had a belt ceremony for him.

“People see him and he’s one of them,” De La Hoya said. “He’s a guy who’s struggling to make it, who’s going out and busting his butt every day, but who isn’t going to give up. It doesn't matter what you look like or where you are from or what color your skin is. What matters is if you will put the work in and you fight with all your heart and give everything you have to give.

“Success can change you. I’ve seen so many guys have some success and get comfortable and not do those extra little things in training that helped them get that success in the first place. They don’t run the extra mile. They don’t get up as early as they used to. They don’t push as hard. We’ll see how he handles it, but from what I have seen of him, he seems like a special fighter and a special person and I think winning is just going to make him hungrier.”

More from Yahoo Sports:

What to Read Next