Salvador Sanchez: A Remembrance
Salvador Sanchez: A Remembrance
By Antonio Santiago, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 12, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
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Salvador Sanchez
By Antonio Santiago, Doghouse Boxing. - Not everyday do we get to observe one more decade since a legendary figure’s passing. Today is one of those days. Because 30 years ago, Latin boxing fans as well as boxing fans all over the world, lost a young, beloved figure in the great champion with the chin as solid as the Maya ruins, and the heart of an Aztec warrior. 30 years ago, on August 12th, 1982, Salvador Sanchez died in a car crash outside Mexico City.

Now, most of us probably remember, as I do, where exactly we were at and what we were doing when we heard about the Challenger exploding or about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I too remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard Salvador Sanchez died. I was just a 5th grader, getting ready for my birthday on August 13th. I went to school as normally, and spent time with my best friend Juan Viruet, with Hermes, Miguel, Jose Guillermo, Pablo, Silvette and Ivelisse, my old, elementary school gang. I went and bought candy at Nain’s store, located at the college I was at, and took classes from Ms. Sandra Soto, the finest specimen of a Black woman you can ever see (I still have a crush on you, Ms. Soto!). Then, my day almost came to a halt. When my dad picked me up after school, he and my mom informed me about what everyone else in Puerto Rico already knew: the news could not be harrower…all over the radio and the television, the voices you heard said the same thing: “Breaking News from Mexico City, Mexico, the world featherweight boxing champion Salvador Sanchez died this morning in a car accident”.

To me, this was almost surreal because I knew boxers like no 10 year old that I personally knew about, I knew names like Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Larry Holmes, Gerry Cooney, Wilfred Benitez, Alfredo Escalera and Wilfredo Gomez (I would first know about Marvelous Marvin Hagler later in 1982), and yet I had never heard of a famous boxer like that die. I guess now that it must have been illogical to my mind that people could die before getting too old!!

Now, with that in mind, I have to note that many famous people have died “before their time”, as they say. But Mexicans in particular seem to have a notable amount of those who did. You have Sanchez, dead at 23. Enrique Camarena, the United States Marine Corps soldier who later worked with the DEA against some cartels, dead in his 30’s. Selena Quintanilla, the inspirational Tejano singer, dead at 22. Ricardo Valenzuela, better known as “Ritchie Valens”, who sang the classic “La Bamba”, dead at 17 in a plane crash in Iowa (coincidentally, at about the same time and around the same area in which Rocky Marciano, our undisputed, boxing Heavyweight champion of the world, died in a plane crash too). Fanny Cano, a young actress, who died as a cause of the Iberia Airlines-Aviaco Airlines plane collision at Madrid International Airport, also in 1982. For some reason, it seems that to some, being Mexican, young and famous is not a lucky mix.

On the other hand, I need to say that Benitez and Gomez are my all time favorite boxing champions. Every time they fought, I tried mighty as I could, as if my screams could lead them to victory, (or for that matter as if they could hear me actually) to talk them into a win from the comfort of my house. I am talking about watching Benitez-Duran with my dad and my late cousin Tomas here, as well as Gomez-Juan Antonio Lopez (an undercard fight on that great night of fighting history when Holmes and Cooney put one of the best Heavyweight fights of the 1980’s). I am talking about attending my first fight in person, with my grandpa and the aforementioned cousin Tomas as Gomez made easy work of Jose Luis Soto, and about the night I became a full time boxing fan, when Gomez beat Lupe Pintor and Benitez lost to Hearns, but not without showing some dandiness of his own. Imagine then, how I screamed when Sanchez fought Gomez, hoping against the impossible that Gomez could turn around what, for all purposes after the first round, you could tell was going to be his first loss! To me, Gomez losing that night stung, because Gomez was almost seen as a superman at that time by his fans. A bit of my innocence left me when Carlos Padilla stopped the bout in round 8th.

Another bit of that innocence, clearly, also left when I learned Sanchez was gone forever, and realizing no matter how we wanted him back, he would never come back. The only other time I can say I’ve felt like that about a boxer’s death was in 2009, when another all time Latin favorite of mine, Nicaraguan Alexis Arguello, supposedly committed suicide. Sanchez and Arguello were part of the best era ever in boxing history. Don’t let the historians fool you, the 1970’s were awesome, and the 1920’s and 1930’s and all had their great champions, but when you think of how many members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame fought at least once during the 1980’s, the number is mind boggling.

Sanchez was a boxer whose legacy is still being debated to this day. He had this way, this manner of making his greatest opponents his easiest fights, and his not so great ones the most complicated ones. Well, except for Azumah Nelson, who came as an unknown to fight Sanchez but later became a legend himself, but that’s another story right there. That is part of the reason that we still debate him. How would he have fared against Sammy Serrano, the WBA Jr. Lightweight Champion of the world, or against Bobby Chacon or “Bazooka” Limon for that matter? How’d he done against Arguello? In a rematch with the other “Bazooka”, Gomez? How would he have done against Eusebio Pedroza or up and coming Barry McGuigan?

Pedroza seems to be the biggest question among all those, since time and again there were chances of them fighting to unify the world Featherweight championship (remember, Sanchez was the WBC champion and Pedroza the WBA’s) Pedroza defended his title 19 times and he also is a member, correctly so, of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I have to say, however wrong as I was, that after McGuigan relieved Pedroza of his championship in 1985, in my 13 year old’s mind, I likened McGuigan to Sanchez or to Arguello. Given how McGuigan handled Pedroza in 1985, I’d give the 1982 version of Sanchez a slight edge over the Pedroza of the same year.

But we will never know, because Salvador Sanchez was taken from us before all those fights could take place.

30 years ago today.

And so because he was, I want to dedicate this to his memory. A Puerto Rican boxing fan dedicating a remembrance to a fighter who beat one of his favorite of all time. Salvador Sanchez touched us all.

And so, I want to make sure he will not be forgotten today. In fact, instead of ending this on a sad note, I want to wish the “Campeon” a Feliz Cumpleano in Heaven, since 30 years ago, he went there. That is where people like him end up at.

Please send all Questions and comments to Antonio at TJ69662094@aol.com.

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