Whether he’s developing an accomplished amateur rich in accolades and experience, or trying to reinvent a relative unknown with his own quirks and habits, Carlos Cancel’s message is the same.
“He’s a perfectionist,” said Holyoke, Mass., welterweight Mohamed Allam, Cancel’s latest protégé.
“If one jab out of 100 is lazy, that’s a problem.”
Born and raised in Holyoke and now training his own fighters in Framingham, the 32-year-old Cancel has built an impressive stable of amateurs and pros in northern Massachusetts based on two key fundamentals, hard work and persistence.
He works with fighters of all ages and backgrounds, including Framingham’s Miguel Teo, USA Boxing’s No. 1-ranked Elite Youth who competed in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in December, and his own 11-year-old daughter, Hailey – “my baby,” as he calls her – who hopes to win the National Female Silver Gloves Tournament in Missouri in July.
On Friday, Feb. 19th, 2016, Cancel will have his hands full with two fighters competing on CES Boxing’s season debut at Twin River Casino. In addition to Allam (1-1), who faces Boston’s Brian Walsh (1-3) in a 4-round bout, Cancel is also training Marlborough junior welterweight Julio Perez (3-0), a former Junior Olympic Pan American Games bronze medalist who faces Maine’s Josh Parker (0-2) in a 4-round bout.
The contrast in styles – and backgrounds – between Allam and Perez keeps Cancel busy. A decorated amateur with more than 100 fights before turning pro in 2015, Perez has made it far on sheer talent alone, but Cancel’s challenge is getting the 24-year-old prospect to remain focused in between fights, a work in progress as he approaches his fourth professional bout.
“He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t party, but his thing was he’d take long layoffs,” Cancel said of Perez. “If he fought on a Friday, he wouldn’t come back for a month. Now he’s training every day. After this fight, he’ll be back on Monday or Tuesday.
“He’s grown a lot. Now he’s actually training harder, eating better,” he continued. “It’s more important to be a professional outside of the ring because if you’re not a professional outside the ring, you won’t be a professional inside the ring.”
While Perez has only lost two of the 12 rounds he’s boxed as a pro, winning unanimously on the scorecards in each of his first three fights, he’s yet to score his first career knockout. Cancel expects it to happen soon, perhaps on the 19th if Perez follows the game plan.
“It’s about the volume of punches,” Cancel said. “He was hurting people, but it was just one shot at a time. He’d hit him with the hook, but wouldn’t come back with the right hand, or vice versa.
“With this fight, he’s been running a lot and he didn’t take any breaks. We’ve been working on combinations, so I think we’re going to get the stoppage this time.”
Work ethic, or lack thereof, is not an issue with Allam. After making his pro debut in Puerto Rico in November of 2014 following just 40 amateur fights, the Holyoke native got his first shot on U.S. soil with CES Boxing last September when he battled unbeaten Stoughton, Mass., vet Travis Demko, losing a close fight on the scorecards.
Shortly thereafter, Allam packed up and moved to Framingham, citing “clouded thoughts” back home that had derailed his focus.
“Everything was off in all aspects of life and boxing was a big part of it,” Allam said. “My head wasn’t in the right place.”
He quickly linked up with Cancel, whom he met briefly at Twin River in September when Perez fought and defeated Pedro Martinez Jr. the same night Allam fought Demko.
“I’ve known him for years, but we never really spoke,” Allam said of Cancel. “I would see him on Facebook posting about his fighters and thought to myself, ‘That’s what this guy does. That’s his life goal. He wants to see his boxers expand and succeed.’ I knew I wanted that for myself.'”
“I really don’t have to push him,” Cancel said. “The thing with him is defense. He doesn’t care if he gets hit. He just wants to fight. I told him, ‘You’re not going to last long in the ring if you keep getting hit.’ All we’ve worked on is defense and not getting hit.”
The two have worked together for five weeks since Allam relocated to Framingham and Allam can already sense a noticeable change in his own demeanor in and out of the ring.
Though he boasts “God gifted me with an excellent chin,” Allam has taken Cancel’s advice on improving his defense and becoming more of a boxer, not just a brawler.
“I always felt like I never hit my ceiling,” Allam said. “I’m good how I am, but there’s always rooms for improvement. You’ll see guys from their first fight to their 30th fight remain the same fighter and then you’ll see guys improve from their first to their 30th fight.
“I feel like the little adjustments we’ve made will make a big difference, along with the constant reminder. I’ve always needed the adjustments, but the constant reminder is what helps me the most.”
Allam’s short-term goal is to get another shot at Demko, who is also fighting on the Feb. 19th card in a 4-round bout against New Jersey welterweight Malik Jackson (3-7-4, 2 KOs).
“I fought that first fight at 60 percent. Had I gone 100 percent, it’d have been an easy fight,” Allam said. “I treated him like he was a sparring partner. If he hit me, I’d say, ‘OK, you got that one,’ and I’d hit him right back. I wasn’t as serious as I should’ve been. I was lacking that killer instinct.”
“Now I feel 100 percent confident. You’ll see me smiling at the weigh-in. You’ll see me smiling at the fight.”
Cancel will be all smiles, too, if both of his fighters come away victorious on the 19th. The future is uncertain, but he’s confident both have the ability to make an impact on the regional circuit.
“I think the sky’s the limit for these guys,” he said. “If they keep putting in the work and don’t take anything for granted. They’ve got to keep working hard – especially Julio, because Julio tends to get lazy once in a while. I have to keep reminding him, ‘You’re not going to be the best if you don’t train like the best.'”
Tickets for CES Boxing’s Feb. 19th season debut are priced at $40, $75 and $125 (VIP) and are available for purchase online at www.cesboxing.com or www.twinriver.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club.
Unbeaten Worcester, Mass., junior middleweight Khiary Gray (11-0, 9 KOs) fights for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) Youth Title in the 8-round main event while Female middleweight Kali Reis (7-5-1, 3 KOs) of Providence returns home for the first time in more than three years to face New Mexico’s Victoria Cisneros (12-18-2, 5 KOs) in a 10-round bout for the vacant UBF World Middleweight Title.
Feb. 19th also features the return of unbeaten Worcester native Freddy Sanchez (7-0, 5 KO) and Framingham featherweight Timmy Ramos (2-0-1, 2 KOs), plus a 4-round bout between Alaskan middleweight Fatlum Zhuta (2-0-1, 2 KOs) and Greg McCoy (3-5-1, 2 KOs) of New Haven, Conn.