On August 12th 1982, Salvador Sanchez would die in a car crash whilst still in training for his next fight. Sanchez was just 23yrs old and was already the WBC and lineal Featherweight champion and held a record of 44-1-1.
Sanchez was one of the fighters I wrote about in my book Forgotten Legends of the Ring and was well on his way to becoming an all time great of the game. When you talk about great featherweight fighters, there is no doubt that had Sanchez not died and lived out a full career, he could have possibly ended as the greatest featherweight of them all. It is also very possible that he would have gone onto become the greatest boxer out of the rich history of Mexican boxing. Currently Julio Cesar Chavez Sr mostly holds that title but then, despite a shortened career, Sanchez has his fair share of fans who regard him as the best Mexico has produced.
Sanchez was not your typical ‘Mexican Style’ boxer – the Mexicans have a reputation for being great pressure fighters, never taking a step back and even taking a shot to land two back on their opponent, also known for their ferocious body punching. Sanchez though was quite different – the man they called ‘Chava’ was very slick and very adept with his defensive work. More of a come forward counter puncher, Sanchez was extremely fit and his relentless style supported this, aided by his routine of running 8-10 miles per day six days per week. Sanchez had excellent head movement which he used to counter his opponents, often punching with the roll, attacking his opponent when they were most vulnerable – in the action of throwing a punch.
His finest moment came when he took on the undefeated and big punching Wilfredo Gomez, who was knocking out everyone he came up against and to this day is considered by many as the greatest boxer to have come out of Puerto Rico. Sanchez’s win thrust him into the limelight and as a boxing superstar and in 1981 he shared fighter of the year honours with none other than the face of boxing at the time, Sugar Ray Leonard.
The final fight of Sanchez’s career heralded the start of the career of a great fighter – Azumah Nelson. Nelson was bought in as a late replacement and was little known at the time, Sanchez would win in round 15 but it would kick start a hall of fame career for Nelson.
We will always wonder what if with Salvador Sanchez, his death at age 23 means despite his greatness, he was still far from entering his peak so who knows just how good he would have become, one thing for sure is that the boxing world will always remember him as a great fighter.