"Battle of The Little Giants"

San Francisco, CA– It is hard to believe that it has been 30 years since Salvador Sanchez, the once-beaten WBC featherweight (126 lb.) champion died in a car accident in Mexico. Being one of the few writers alive to have seen him box in person, I can tell you that when the Mexican Sanchez fought Puerto Rico’s Wilfredo Gomez, rarely have I ever seen the level of fan anticipation so high. The Puerto Rican fans were betting Gomez, Salvador’s people were dropping pesos on him. I’m not trying to overstate the setting, but the now razed Caesars Palace Sports Pavilion was never hopping like it was that Las Vegas night in August 1981.


This was at a point and time when Don King Productions was on top of the boxing, especially seeing Harold “Ross Fields” Smith had been taken out of the game by the FBI after he absconded with more than $21 million (USA) from Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, CA and was signing up a lot of big attractions. Bob Arum was making money, but the late Dan Duva was as well as the Main Events promoter put “Sugar Ray” Leonard-Tommy Hearns I on limited Pay Per View in September 1981. King was doing his own “home” pay fights soon the world of Closed Circuit TV in arenas and theaters were history. But back to the sub title, a Mariachi band was playing in the ring for Sanchez and a Salsa group were in the same squared circle doing their thing for Gomez.


The interest in Sanchez-Gomez had the Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry going on, but it also matched two of the best boxers in the world against one another. Sanchez was 40-1-1, 32 KOs. while Gomez was 32-0-1, 32 whacks. The fight was fierce and competitive, especially seeing Gomez had a facial bone broken in the opening round when he got dropped by Sanchez. Gomez fought gamely, but when it was halted in round eight, the late (great) Chuck Minker had it 67-65 as did Duane Ford, while Sacramento, CA’s deceased Hank Elespuru put forth a 67-66 scorecard. Dropped in round eight again, the weary and clearly beaten Puerto Rican was saved by referee Carlos Padilla.


Although this was shocking to some, Sanchez rear-ended a truck carrying live chickens to market in the early morning hours, this as he was allegedly racing back to camp after a “booty call” like happening. Supposedly his team did not know he was AWOL from camp and Salvador didn’t want them knowing he was doing some intimate plumbing prior to hitting the chickens.


If my memory serves me correctly, both Sanchez, just 23 at the time of his death, was supposed to face then WBC lightweight (135) champ, the late Alexis Arguello. I think they both had agreed to fight one another for King, but hadn’t put their names on the dotted lines yet. After drilling Gomez in September 1981, Sanchez fought Pat Cowdell in December 1981 at the no longer standing Houston Astrodome, Rocky Garcia in May 1982 in Dallas, TX, two decision wins. His final bout was against then upstart (13-0) Azumah Nelson at Madison Square Garden, winning a TKO 15 as the still green Nelson gassed on July 21, 1982.


Sanchez was a very good, if not great fighter. That being said, I don’t think he would have beaten Arguello at 135. His legacy is that he had amazing conditioning, never once looking tired in a fight. In addition, “Double S” was as cool and composed under fire as he was sitting down watching TV. Another fighter in which we never got to see in his prime unfortunately! When he died on August 12, 1982, Sanchez was 44-1-1, 32 KOs.


For the trivia minded, the man that handed Salvador his only loss was a SD 12 to Antonio Becerra (14-2) at the time of this 1977 scrap for the vacant Mexican bantamweight (118) title. Two months later, Becerra lost to 9-9 Hector Medina on points after 12.

Pedro Fernandez


  • Sanchez-Arguello:
    Forced to choose I`d have picked Arguello over Sanchez in `82. Tough style matchup for both guys, Arguello wouldn;t like Sanchez`subtle movements, while Salvador was much less dominant against classy boxers with a jab.

    Sanchez is better able to get of to a good start, there is the possibility he could bank enough rounds to hang on if Arguello cant drop him a couple of times … but that`s a bif IF. I believe Arguello would be totally immune to Sanchez`punches and pressure, which would set up a late round equation different form what Sanchez has experienced before.

    I think Sanchez would be too complete & versatile for the 2004 version of Pacquiao at 126. Against the 2008 version at 130 I think Sanchez wins an extremely close and hard fight.

    Sanchez-Maayweather Jr.
    This is opposite the Pacquiao matchup – the Mayweather of the late-90`s who made 130 fairly easily while maintaining 1-punch KO power in both hands along with insane skills would beat Sanchez quite convincingly. Sanchez may find a way to give a respectable account of himself, but never threaten to win.

    However, the post-Corrales Mayweather from the 2001-2005 period would have been thoroughly outworked by Sanchez. Wether disinterested or weight-drained, the stuff Floyd brought against Chavez, Hernandez, Burton, Castilo & Sosa wouldn`t be nearly enough to get the job done against Sanchez. 140 & up is apples & oranges.

  • There 70’s were the start of dopping on a somewhat systematic level in certain sports.

    I think the drugs of choice change in order to stay ahead of the testing, not because the old stuff wan’t just as effective – there are records in long distance running and swimming from the 70’s & early 80’s which remain unbroken to this day!

    There can be a question mark hanging over Sanchez but not more so than any other fighter. Drugs would certainly have been available at the time. On the other hand the boxing community are not known as early adopters of any modern training fad (in some cases preferring voodo & old wives tales) so it`s just a question of wether he was the type to believe in possible benefits.

    Sanchez`stamina was a big part of what made him special, although back in the era of 15 rounds, more lightly built fighters who were much more active, his energy level didnt seem so questionable, especially at his age.

    What set Sanchez apart form other Energizer-Bunny fighters was the higher technical leve without breakdowns, and ability to fight his style and gameplan amidst all that motion.

  • He allegedly did blood doping Ray.

  • Sanchez was a medical freak of nature, as he would go into a round with a HR of approx. 54bpm and come back post round at HR 120bpm, with in 20-25 sec’s his HR was back down to 54bpm. Frekin amazing.

  • La Batalla de El Pequeno GiGantes. That was the how Spanish fight Posters that hung in bodegas, in Brooklyn NY, billed the fight. This fight was huge at the time. Both fighters had major exposure from free TV. Gomez even fought on an NBC Friday night summer card, blasting out Derrick Holmes after cracking a molar in Holmes mouth. What balls Gomez showed after fighting on with a broken cheek bone.Sanchez beat great TV fighter Danny Little Red lopez twice. This fight had a line of succession for the best fighter in the world under 130. Zarate bombed out Zamora, Gomez bombs out Zarate. I saw Sanchez KO Nelson at the Garden. It was crazy in there. African drums and chanting. Mexicans singing. The ebb and flow of the fight. Great night for boxing. BY the way I had my Dominican wife write the Spanish translation for me.

  • Great fighter! I also did a dedication to him at my website, dog house boxing dot com..and I am PUERTO RICAN!!

    Arguello was too big for him and would have won, through..the comparison with Aaron Pryor by the above poster is valid, but Pryor was heavier than Arguello, while Arguello was heavier and taller than Sanchez.

  • Would beat Pac, but not Floyd who won the title at 130. Pac was a one armed bandit, like what he was vs. Bradley againt Barrera.

  • Sanchez vs. the Pacquiao who fought at 126 (e.g. barrera), who wins?
    Sanchez vs the Mayweather who fought at 130 (e.g. Hernandez), who wins?

  • He might have died at his peak, truly a great fighter to watch. Not the stereotypical Mexican fighter by any means.

  • Sanchez was a motion machine, always throwing or maneuvering on his opponent so that he came out on top. His style would have given Arguello problems much like Pryor. I would have favored him against Arguello because I always favor fighters who bend at the waist and move their heads. Arguello could do that against taller opponents but chose not to regularly. What a great fight that would have been. Best Mexican fighter ever as he was much more versatile than Chavez Sr. I always show my kids tapes of Sanchez so they learn how to punch with head movement to avoid getting hit when trading, the reason he more often than not defeated stationary or less mobile fighters like Danny Lopez. I also point how Salvador controlled range and and stayed within himself at all times.

  • And just to gauge how exceptionally great Sanchez was, one must realize that after losing to Sanchez, Azumah Nelson went on to win the Featherweight & Super Featherweight titles and did not lose another fight for 8 years until he fought another first year eligible hall of famer, the great Pernell (Sweet Pea) Whitaker!!!!

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