Andrew Cancio pulled off a big upset in defeating Alberto Machado by TKO in Round 4 on Saturday night at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
It looked early on as though Cancio was simply overmatched against defending WBA regular junior lightweight titlist Machado, who was fighting in his opponent's home region.
After Cancio was floored by a left uppercut from the hard-punching southpaw from Puerto Rico, it looked like an easy and quick night was in order for the heavily favored Machado.
Cancio (20-4-2, 15 KOs), however, gamely dusted himself off and began the process of pulling off a dramatic upset after surviving the first round. In the second and third rounds, Cancio closed the distance and started to chip away at Machado (21-1, 17 KOs) by beating him to the punch and landing left hooks and straight right hands to the head.
The momentum swung in favor of Cancio, who hails from nearby Blythe, California.
In the fourth round, a body shot sent Machado to one knee. The highly partisan crowd -- which was loud and boisterous from the beginning -- understood it was now Cancio's fight and his championship to win. Another body blow had Machado hunched over on the canvas. It was clear at this point that a Cancio victory was inevitable. And as Cancio scored a third knockdown, the fight was waved off.
"I felt weak in there," the fallen champion said. "The rematch would be nice, but I think I have to move up to 130 pounds. We will see."
But really, this night belonged to Cancio, who several years ago had contemplated quitting the sport and who still has a day job working for a gas company in Simi Valley, California.
"This was the fight of my life," Cancio said. "I feel extremely great winning this world title by knockout. I did not let this fight go to the judges' scorecards.
"It's been a long road, and it felt like we thought it would -- unbelievable. For me to execute a plan like we did feels great. He caught me early, but it was a flash knockdown. I got my legs back and got my composure. I was never out of the fight. I'm extremely happy."
Cancio said he would celebrate Saturday night, then go back to his regular job on Tuesday.
Vargas outpoints Manzanilla
Rey Vargas successfully defended his WBC junior featherweight title by outpointing Franklin Manzanilla by identical scores of 117-108 across the board.
Vargas (33-0, 22 KOs), who is unusually tall for his weight class at 5-foot-10, was clipped by a left hook by Manzanilla (18-5, 17 KOs) in the second round that sent him to the canvas. It looked as though an upset was brewing.
But in the subsequent rounds, Vargas took tactical control of the bout and was able to use his height and reach advantage to frustrate Manzanilla, who was docked twice for various dirty tactics by referee Raul Caiz Sr.
Vargas isn't always exciting, but there is no doubting his effectiveness inside the ring.
"I want to unify all the belts. I have this WBC, but I want all the belts,'' said the 28-year-old from Mexico.
Diaz dominates Huerta
In a battle of Los Angeles-based junior featherweights, Joseph Diaz dominated Charles Huerta over 10 rounds, winning by the score of 99-91 on all three cards.
Diaz (28-1, 14 KOs) was able to box effectively out of his southpaw stance and consistently beat Huerta (20-6, 12 KOs) to the punch. Diaz is not a particularly heavy-handed puncher, but his sharp combinations stunned Huerta several times in the middle rounds and kept him at bay.
Last year, Diaz challenged unsuccessfully for the WBC featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr., before making the decision to move up in weight after not being able to make the 126-pound limit for his bout this past summer against Jesus Rojas.
"I did really good," Diaz said. "I moved up in weight and showcased in this new 130-pound division.
"I was able to look good and push back a big super featherweight in Huerta. I had him hurt a few times, but I couldn't finish him because he's such a great warrior. At the end of the day, I had to do my job, and that's what I did."
Diaz didn't rule out a move back to featherweight.
"If big names at 126 like Victor Santa Cruz, Xu Can or Oscar Valdez call me out, then I'll go down to 126 and fight," Diaz said. "If none of those fights are going to be presented, than I'd rather stay at 130."