August 6th, 2013 By Pedro Fernandez
31 YEARS AFTER DEATH SANCHEZ REMEMBERED
San Francisco, CA- In less than two weeks, August 12, 2013 to be exact and it will have marked 31 years since the passing of featherweight (126 lbs) champion Salvador Sanchez. Notice I did NOT use the word anniversary, for I don’t honor the day Giselle Ortiz was killed, July 31, the day the US Government was overthrown by a coup that killed President Kennedy on November 22, to me, those and other dates are just not something to celebrate.
MEXICAN BOXERS TURN PROFESSIONAL EARLY ON
So goes the passing of Sanchez, just 23 years at the time his sports car rear ended a truck carrying live chickens to market. Turning professional at the tender age of 16, something not uncommon for Mexican boxers with and without ability. I’ve been told you can turn professional south of the border at the age as young as 15, as did Antonio Margarito. Erik Morales started punching for pay at 16 years of age. Said to be the greatest boxer in Mexican history, I consider him vastly overrated, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. began slinging leather professionally at 17.
LEGACY OF SALVADOR SANCHEZ ONE OF DOUBT?
Having met Sanchez twice, both on the same day of August 8, 1981, the day he slew unbeaten Wilfredo Gomez (32-0-1, 32 KOs) inside of eight fistic frames, “Double S” was the most unassuming boxer who attained greatness I had ever encountered. He was shy, spoke no English, and even in Spanish cut his verbiage in response to questions down to the briefest number of words possible, sort of like Evander Holyfield when he and I met in 1984.
TURNED PRO AFTER JUST FOUR AMATEUR SCRAPS!
With a chin that reminded me of the cartoon character Popeye, Sanchez had his first fight for money on May 4, 1975 against a fighter that BoxRec.com doesn’t have a record on named Al Gardino, that ended via KO 3. His next three opponents, Miguel Ortiz (KO 3), Victor Martinez (KO 2) and Cesar Lopez (KO 3), all of these fights were held in Veracruz, Mexico. Taking his trade to country’s capital of Mexico City where he would have two fights with Candito Sandoval (TKO 7) and Fidel Treijo who took him the eight round distance concluding 1975 for “SS” on December 11.
LEARNING ON THE JOB AS HE WENT!
Because of the scant amateur career, Sanchez went 7-0, 6 KOs as learned his craft in 1975. In 1976, Sanchez was 9-0 with 9 whacks, including a KO over the aforementioned Fidel Treijo, who had taken him to the eight round limit in 1975. Two years into his run, Sanchez was fighting at bantamweight (118 lbs) and was now 16-0, 15 KOs. In 1977, Sanchez was still learning how to fight against lower tier fighters and compiled a 6-1 record, 5 KOs, one being a stoppage of Fidel Treijo, who went the distance the year before. “SS’s” only loss was a September 9 setback UD 12 to Alex Beccera (15-2).
FOLLOWING SALVADOR’S PROFESSIONAL FOOTSTEPS
In 1978, Sal started things off in April with his Olympic Auditorium (Los Angeles, CA) debut with a draw with Juan Escobar (8-2-1, 5 KOs) and got dropped in round five for the first time in his professional life. In all, Sanchez went 5-0-1, 3 KOs, but the only fighter he faced with a decent record was a lad named Hector Cortez (23-3-2, 16 KOs). They were bringing Sanchez along slowly, very slowly. In ’79. Salvador tallied a 7-0, 5 KOs record with only the rugged Filipino Fel Clemente, who was much better than his 13-9 record and James Martinez (44-8-1, 9 KOs), who lost to every above average fighter he faced, people like Ruben Castillo and Juan Meza, went the distance with Sal. One name that stood out on Salvador’s 1979 resume was a TKO 5 over journeyman type Felix Trinidad Sr., father of Hall of Famer Felix Trinidad Jr.
1980 WAS THE “BREAKOUT YEAR” FOR SANCHEZ
Now 33-1-1, 29 KOs, Sanchez was matched with the rugged, durable, hit him with a bat and he wouldn’t budge type of fighter in WBC featherweight (126) king Danny “Little Red” Lopez (42-3, 39 whacks) on February 2. A mismatch of sorts, Sanchez who had beaten on Lopez in almost round, one judge had it 120-108, while the other two’s cards read 118-111 & 119-110, to put such a beating (TKO 13) on Danny that he is probably most responsible for the residual effects Lopez suffers today from. In April, Sanchez took a UD 15 over the 47-1 Ruben Castillo. A senseless rematch with Lopez was set for June 21 and Caesars Palace was the site. Although it appeared closer on the scorecards at 129-126, 127-120 & 125-122, while watching the fight on ABC, I felt bad because Danny was getting shellacked.
FINISHING OUT 1980 WITH THE WBC LAURELS
Sanchez would close out 1980 with two defenses. The first against then unbeaten Patrick Ford (16-0) that ended with a Majority Decision 15 on September 13. Next up Sanchez went against New York’s Juan Laporte (15-1) and scored a UD 15 over the rugged Puerto Rican December 13.
DID 1981 BRING ABOUT AURA OF GREATNESS?
While most fighters peak around 28, Sanchez who had been a professional now for six years, Salvador was looking to create a legacy. His first fight of the year (March 21) was with (43-1) Robert Castandon that ended with a TKO 10. He beat (50-3) Nicky Perez in a non-title tilt on July 11, some 40 days or so before the clash with unbeaten Wilfredo Gomez, who at 122 lbs. had went 32-0-1, all 32 wins were inside the distance. On August 21, Gomez who went to bed real close to the 126 lb. limit, first stepped on the scale at 130 lbs. This caused a rush of boxing wise guys to the Caesars Palace Sports Book to drop ducats on the underdog Sanchez. While some say that Gomez never made the weight upon three returns to the scale, it was listed at 126 and the “Battle of The Little Giants” was on!
SANCHEZ-GOMEZ WAS EMOTIONAL EVEN BEFORE THE FIGHT!
Both the Puerto Rican contingent and the Mexican followers of Sanchez were waiting with baited breath for the first bell. Knocked down by a punch that caused a broken cheek bone in round one, Gomez tried valiantly to come back and win, but Sanchez was better. Some blame the weight drain and while I think that may have played a role, Sanchez with his height and reach just seemed to have Wilfredo’s number. It was stopped in round eight after another knockdown.
THREE FIGHTS BEFORE “GRIM REAPER” TOOK SAL AWAY
England’s Pat Cowdell (19-2) went 15 rounds with Sanchez and one judge, Bob McMillion incredibly had Cowdell winning 145-144, while James Jen-Kin and Duane Ford tabbed it 146-140, both for Sanchez. A match with Rocky Martinez in Dallas went the distance, a fight that Sanchez dominated and was scored 147-138 by the great Arlen “Spider” Bynum, while the Jorge L. Velasco tabulation read 147-141 and Moises Del Razo had it 146-141. Salvador’s last fight was a good give and take battle with future two-division champion Azumah Nelson. Only 13-0, 9 stops, the scores were split 2-1 for Sanchez when a “gassed” Nelson was stopped in the 15th round. The cards favoring Sanchez were Tony Castellano’s 135-131 & Artie Aidala had it 134-131, while one jurist Al Reid tabbed matters 133-132 for Azumah.
ARGUELLO WAS IN SALVADOR’S FUTURE!
Then lightweight (135) champ Alexis Arguello was supposed to be Sanchez’s next foe in November or December 1982. But Sanchez’s death nixed that bout. Having laid out his professional career for you fight by fight, I ask you does this alone mean Sanchez was great, or did he need more wins over boxing illuminaries before one could bestow the tag of greatness on the Mexican lgend nicknamed “Chava?”