One month before he defends his world championship belt against a boxer many think he can't beat again, Andrew Cancio steadies a jackhammer on a quiet residential street in California, trying to fix a gas leak. He grips the handles and squeezes the trigger, his forearms shaking as the bit punches through black asphalt. "It's gotta be a cap leak," he says to his coworker as the ground splits beneath his feet.
Passing cars pay him no attention, and why would they? He's a 5'6" crew technician for the Southern California Gas Company, wearing blue coveralls, an orange traffic vest, work gloves and safety goggles. They don't know he's the current World Boxing Association (WBA) super featherweight champion of the world.
Back in February, he won the belt in dramatic fashion: against the undefeated Alberto Machado, as a 14-to-1 underdog in front of a sold-out crowd at a casino 100 miles from his hometown, less than a year since he returned from retirement.
On this Tuesday morning in May, he wipes the sweat from his forehead and reaches for the clay spade to break up the dirt, then grabs the shovel, digging until he's hip-high in a hole three feet wide. It's a great workout, but he doesn't need it. His quads are already sore from climbing up and down the bleachers at a local high school. His arms ache from punching the bags in the gym, and his whole body is tired from running five miles around his neighborhood in a nylon sweat suit before sunrise.
He does need this job, however; it provides security while he pursues a dream in a sport that offers little.
"Most elite fighters can just get up, go running, come home, eat breakfast, then take a nap and relax. I don't," he says. "Boxing is my overtime."