REMEMBERING THE ICON SALVADOR SANCHEZ
San Francisco, CA– Celebrities, be it musicians, actors, ballplayers or boxers, they for the most part are thought greater of in death than in life. One fighter who may fall into that category was Mexico’s Salvador Sanchez. Born in 1959, Sanchez died at the tender age of 23 years old when his car rear ended a poultry truck in the wee hours of August 12, 1982. At the time of his death he was promoted by Don King Productions.
DID KING MAKE US DRINK THE SANCHEZ KOOL AID?
The wirehaired wonder from Cleveland, OH, King was touting, with lots of pundits chiming in, that Salvador, the then WBC featherweight (126 lbs) champion was the best boxer ‘pound for pound.’ This even though he had only beaten one-great fighter in a 44-1-1, (32 KOs) career that that began in 1975 when he silenced one Al Gardino (TKO 3) in Veracruz, MX. And the sole “great” fighter that Sanchez had bested, the then unbeaten Wilfredo Gomez, had some weighty issues entering the August 1981 bout. PACO WAS GOMEZ CAMP INSIDER
According to Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel, current President of the World Boxing Organization, then an advisor to Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez, the reigning World 122 lb. king moving up four lbs. to fight Sanchez at featherweight, Gomez was at weight the night before. Perplexed, I pushed for more info. Paco stated that Gomez stayed up late, and while he wasn’t partying, Wilfredo was (unwisely) eating and consuming fluids.
GOMEZ HAD 32 WINS & 32 KNOCKOUTS!
Gomez, then 32-0-1 with all 32 fights ending in knockout, was so confident of victory he could not face the reality that poor preparation might lead to losing, it just wasn’t part of the Gomez vernacular. Of the three judges, Duane Ford, Chuck Minker, Hank Elespuru, only Las Vegas’ Ford is alive and still skillfully scoring fights. Ford had Sanchez by two at 67-65, the others had it 67-66 when the fight ended at 2:09 of round eight.
GOMEZ NEVER EVEN WEIGHED 126 LBS!
When he hit the scale at 8 AM the day of the fight, Gomez was four lbs. over the featherweight limit at 130. Seeing this was one of my first big fight weigh ins, as I sat eating breakfast in the no longer in existence Caesars Palace coffee shop with people like Redd Fox, Sammy Davis, and the aforementioned King Don, I couldn’t believe that anybody in their right mind would come in four lbs. over! Given a couple of hours to lose the weight, that never happened as I was told that the lightest Wilfredo got was 128 ½.
WEIGHT DRAINED GOMEZ HAD GIANT STONES
When the fight started, Gomez went after the taller and leaner Mexican champion. A right hand counter that landed flush midway through the session, the punch broke a Gomez’s facial bone. From that point forward, Gomez showed elephant-sized stones as he continued to press the action all the while getting beaten to the punch. With Gomez’ face swollen to nearly unrecognizable proportions, his left eye nearly shut, time was not on the side of the Puerto Rican.
SAL’S RESUME WASN’T EXACTLY STAR-STUDDED
There is little doubt that this was Sanchez’ zenith. He would die 12 months and three fights later. The first post Gomez fight was a SD 15 over Pat Cowdell, Jorge Garcia (UD 15), and Salvador’s finale, the TKO 15 of future Hall of Famer Azumah Nelson (13-0) in Madison Square Garden on July 21, 1982. Prior to Gomez, Sanchez had beaten Danny “Little Red” Lopez (TKO 13, TKO 14) for the title and in a rematch, Juan Laporte (UD 15), Ruben Castillo (UD 15), this in addition to the father of future three division champ Felix Trinidad, Felix Trinidad Sr. (TKO 5).
TIME TO ANSWER TO THE $640,000 QUESTION
The lone blight on the Sanchez resume, a September 1977 SD 12 to Antonio Becerra (13-2) in a Mexican bantamweight (118) title scrap in Mazatlan, halted Salvador’s unbeaten mark at 18 & zip! The draw was to Juan Escobar one year later at the Olympic Auditorium. So I have to ask you, is Salvador Sanchez overrated? Or was he truly a fighter worthy of an iconic status? Remember, Salvador Sanchez only beat one “great” fighter!