August 16th, 2012 By Pedro Fernandez
30 YEARS SINCE SANCHEZ WAS KILLED!
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.
MARIACHI BAND VS. SALSA BAND
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.
“BATTLE OF THE LITTLE GIANTS” WAS ALL THAT & MORE!
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.
HOW DID SANCHEZ DIE?
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.
WAS SUPPOSED TO FIGHT ALEXIS ARGUELLO AT 135!
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.
LEGACY VS. REALITY?
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.