Cancio believes he’s getting the short end of the stick across the board as he prepares to defend his WBA junior lightweight title in a rematch against Rene Alvarado (31-8, 20 knockouts) on Saturday at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio (DAZN; 6 p.m. main card).
The formerly retired Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KOs) catapulted his uneven career to new heights in February when he upset Alberto Machado to win the WBA junior lightweight title with a knockout win. Soon afterward, he was given the key to the city in his hometown of Blythe, Calif., with promoter Oscar De La Hoya, head of Golden Boy Promotions, by his side as they welcomed more than a thousand fans. Cancio proved in June the first win against Machado wasn’t a fluke, and knocked him out again in emphatic fashion.
Cancio thought convincing wins should’ve shed his underdog status and put him on a bigger stage, but he’s since been positioned back to Fantasy Springs, a place where he’s popular and has drawn fans immensely well over his 12 fights there, mostly because of the 100-mile proximity to his small truck-stop town on the California-Arizona border.
“I don’t know,” he said of the perceived lack of respect. “Maybe because I haven’t been on big cards yet, or the exposure I need to get. I sell out Fantasy Springs, but I would like Golden Boy to move me around to different spots so I can get a bigger fan base. I’m not the promoter. I don’t know how to go about that. I’m just the fighter who wants to make money for my family. I just have to keep winning and move forward to get big fights and big money so I can step aside from the gas company a little bit.”
Cancio is specifically upset that Golden Boy passed on him as the co-feature fight for the Canelo Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev card earlier this month after they promised him the significant platform to showcase his skills.
Golden Boy opted to place social media star and Alvarez stablemate Ryan Garcia in the co-feature bout for the Nov. 2 card, somewhat pacifying their disgruntled prospect just as they were handling tumultuous contract renegotiations with Garcia, and distant dealings with his friend Alvarez.
“I feel like a lot of the promotion is focused on Canelo and Ryan Garcia,” said Cancio. “I feel that Garcia hasn’t fought anybody yet. As a co-main event, on a big card, with no belt, I think that’s a little bit ridiculous.
“I haven’t had a conversation with Oscar. He just showed up to the [key to the city] event, and very little words. I haven’t sat down with him. I haven’t talked with him,” said Cancio.
De La Hoya was not present in Indio for Cancio’s title defense in June, continuing a recent trend of the Hall-of-Fame fighter staying away from the spotlight.
“I just want to be treated as a world champion and not just some guy who got lucky,” said Cancio. “I didn’t get lucky. I worked my butt off to get here. I don’t want to be working, and fighting, my entire career. I want to focus on boxing. In order to do that, I need to make the big money in bigger venues. Maybe they’ll put me on a Jaime Munguia undercard one day.”
Officials from Golden Boy Promotions had no comment after learning about Cancio’s concerns.
Before moving on to bigger cards, Cancio must continue winning and hold on to his status as a champion. Standing in his way is Alvarado, a mandatory challenger he first knocked out in 2015.
Cancio is also irritated that Leo Santa Cruz is fighting for the WBA’s 130-pound “super” title on Saturday while he holds the “regular” version. Instead of elevating Cancio to the sanctioning body’s “super” champion when Gervonta Davis vacated the title, the WBA left Cancio out in the cold, and now Santa Cruz makes his division debut on the same night as the co-feature on a big fight card in Las Vegas featuring heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder against Luis Ortiz.
“Leo Santa Cruz is fighting for a belt I should have,” said Cancio. “I feel like I have a lot to prove. A lot of people still don’t recognize me as one of the top champions out there. I just have to keep showcasing what I deserve.”
Cancio will keep fighting with a chip on his shoulder, breaking concrete to fix gas leaks, while also hoping to break through the glass ceiling.
Against the improved Alvarado, who’s riding a seven-fight winning streak, Cancio will make a career-high $200,000, a $75,000 raise from his last fight. Cancio said he’s nowhere near leaving the gas company yet. He wants to buy a house and is saving for the down payment.
“The first fight with Alvarado was a tough fight, and now there’s a lot more at stake,” Cancio said. “There is a lot more I have to prove as a world champion. I’m not taking him lightly. The more I win, the more money I make. That motivates me and keeps me going.”
The co-main event for the Cancio-Alvarado card will feature Manny Robles III (18-0, 8 KOs) of Los Angeles against Chinese champion Xu Can (17-2, 3 KOs) for the WBA featherweight title.
Robles III is the son of Manny Robles, trainer of unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz. The father-son duo are based out of Legendz Gym in Norwalk, and Ruiz insisted the father be in his son’s corner Saturday night before leaving for Saudi Arabia on Sunday for their heavyweight title rematch against Anthony Joshua on Dec. 7.
“My time has come,” said Manny Robles III. “All of my amateur experience, the hours spent in the gym, and the tough fights as a professional have prepared me for this challenge. I’m ready to bring a world title to Los Angeles and make everyone at home proud.”