By Robert Aaron Contreras
On Friday, Golden Boy Promotions offered up a championship doubleheader on DAZN. From the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in California, where title hopes were fulfilled and title hopes, crushed.
Out of the ruckus came two unheralded bangers, now with gold around their waist, and the billing of boxing’s latest stage performers in its great “theatre of the unexpected.”
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy
Andrew Cancio (21-4-2, 16 KO) def. Alberto Machado (21-2, 17 KO) by third-round knockout
It was seek and destroy for Cancio, leaving no doubt to the legitimacy of his championship claim after again poleaxing Machado in a rematch. This time it took him just three rounds to split the Puerto Rican in half with a left hook to the body.
Cancio, 30, had to do battle with mega-hitter Machado for a second time after a shocking upset four months ago. But Cancio, relentlessly, never taking a step backwards, got the job done, winning by third-round knockout.
“I told you guys I would know him out again,” Cancio said in the ring on the DAZN broadcast. “I told you guys it wasn’t a fluke. I’m here to stay, let’s bring on the other 130-pound champions.”
Cancio was all over Machado from the onset. Immediately taking control of the center of the ring, both hands oscillating toward his opponent’s midsection. For a moment, Machado tried timing the champion coming forward. But Cancio’s crouching approach and the way he blinded his target by jabbing his way in, helped him avoid any real damage.
In the second period, Machado, the taller man, shifted his focus to landing left uppercuts. But Cancio, bloodied now from a cut on his forehead, waded in methodically, never stepping in with the same punch two times in a row. He had Machado veering toward the ropes in the final minute of Round 2 and stuck in the corner for the final 20 seconds.
Cancio’s varied attack was taking effect. The challenger’s legs were like gelatin to close the round.
In the third frame, Cancio continued to plow forward. Closing in on the two-minute mark, the champ shot a right hand to the body. Then went upstairs with a quick four-punch combination that raised Machado’s defense, and freed up a perfect target along his ribcage. Cancio saw the opening a pitched a left hook that dropped Machado to a knee, where referee Rank Caiz Sr. counted him out.
Machado, who was vocal about his tough training camp ahead of their first meeting, offered up minimal excuses this weekend.
“Look he’s a great champion—he showed that tonight,” Machado said.
The punch stats were as expected with an edge toward the triumphant hometown fighter. Cancio landed 59 of 183 total punches (32 percent) and Machado connected on 42 of 195 total punches (22 percent).
Training part-time around a blue-collar job, Cancio quickly became the sport’s favorite parvenu. And with a champion’s mindset is looking to draw more big challenges, mentioning both his mandatory challenger Rene Alvarado and former foe Jo Jo Diaz.
Cancio has now won four in a row. Three of which by knockout, developing into the bodysnatcher of the division. He hasn’t lost since a brief hiatus in 2016, following a disappointing setback against Diaz. There is a California-sized showdown to look forward to.
Elwin Soto (15-1, 11 KO) def. Angel Acosta by twelfth-round knockout (20-2, 20 KO)
Overpowered and out-punched through 11 rounds, Soto orchestrated a come-from-behind knockout in the 12th and final round to dethrone light flyweight champion Acosta. But not without the help of referee Tom Taylor, who was eager to step in for a premature stoppage. Acosta has the meanest left hand in the division but Soto managed to do him one better in Round 12 as he circled out and away from the defending champion’s attack and smacked a left hook of his own that spelled the beginning of the end.
“I always dreamed of this,” the 22-year-old Soto said in the ring after the fight with his new WBO belt in tow. “I worked really hard for this—I put a lot of effort into this. I thought I was going to lose the fight, but thank God I landed that punch and I won the fight. I dedicate this belt and this win to my family and my corner.”
That left hand wasn’t Soto’s only big punch. After a giving up the first two rounds to a bulldozing Acosta, in the third frame the Mexican battler curled another left hook around Acosta’s guard and a follow-up right hand to put the waning champion on the seat of his pants. Acosta would meet the canvas again but the ref warned Soto for shoving.
Acosta, 28, kept his composure, returning to his bread and butter: spamming his left hook—three or four or five at a time.
The fourth round belonged to Soto too. He shoveled punches into a retreating Acosta. A handful of punches still thudded off Soto’s high guard but he was beating his man to the punch. Up close, Acosta leaned over, pausing for a fleeting moment or two, and Soto struck him with more grimace-inducing body blows.
Soto had found his confidence but his low output over the next five rounds put the fight entirely in Acosta’s hands. The Puerto Rican slugger walked down Soto, chugging away, outworking the challenger with thudding combinations: double left hooks, complimented with short right crosses, and more curled shots up and down.
In the sixth stanza, Acosta took a break from hitting at Soto’s guard to implore the referee to warn his opponent for leading with the head. There was a warning in the seventh period and swelling under Acosta’s right eye.
Acosta continued to pound away. Soto floated in and out, indicative of the three Mexican nationals he won as an amateur. He had a keen focus on the champion’s midsection. But his singular punching wasn’t going to be enough to sway the judges. Acosta was chaining together heavy combinations, doubling the challenger’s output.
By Round 9, Soto began running out of gas, resulting in a mauling episode from the challenger to avoid more punishment. His feet no longer springing him around the ring. More left hooks forced Soto to wrap up in the tenth. And in the 11th, Soto’s face was burning bright, catching big shots, catching them well, but too many to pick up a single round since the fourth frame. Acosta followed him around, sitting on right and left hooks.
As is his nature, Acosta went out for the kill to open Round 12. Immediately on top of Soto, twice firing a combo of a straight right hand and two left uppercuts. But 20 seconds in, that fateful left hand found its mark. With Acosta clearly buzzed, Soto jumped him, shoeshining four body punches for the finish.
The replay showed Taylor with a perfect angle of Acosta’s droopy eyes and dazed look that certainly played into his decision to call a halt so early. Acosta was certainly in danger but still standing his ground. And all just a few weeks from Taylor’s contrasting effort in the PBC headliner between Ivan Redkach and Devon Alexander, where Alexander was floored three times in a round before Taylor jumped in.
“I told the ref he shouldn’t have stopped the fight,” Acosta had a chance to share post-fight. “Sure, he hurt me but it wasn’t enough to cause the stoppage.”
The punch stats revealed Soto landed 162 of 497 total punches (33 percent) while Acosta connected on 230 of 806 total punches (28 percent).