By: Kirk Jackson
Salvador “Chava” Sanchez 44-1-1 (32 KO’s) was an amazing fighter accurately fitting the mantra, “A talent gone too soon.” He passed away 35 years ago, yet his influence still permeates throughout the boxing world.
On August 12, 1982, Sanchez perished in a collision involving his white 1981 Porsche and two trucks on a highway north of Queretaro, Mexico.
Trainers, fighters, fans still to this day remark on the extraordinary skill set of Sanchez and wonder what could have been.
Although he passed long before I was even thought of, I can’t help but look back and pay respect to one of boxing’s greatest fighters. Plus Sanchez possessed a cool curly fro.
The Hall of Famer was a complete boxer possessing speed, power, an endless supply of energy and excellent counter-punching abilities.
Analyzing Sanchez’s style, one of his greatest strengths was his balance and footwork. This allowed Sanchez to thrive offensively and defensively as he was renowned as a great counter-puncher.
When observing Sanchez, one may say, “He has a tendency to move and bounce around a lot.” And what may appear as wasted movement, is actually Sanchez finding his rhythm, range and timing his opponents.
Sanchez was always able to effectively transfer his weight from the back foot to the front foot, transitioning from offense to defense seamlessly.
This required balance, maintaining proper distance between his feet, bending of the knees, shifting weight; intricate stuff. The movements are subtle but masterful when a lens is placed on the significance.
These movements along with balance allowed Sanchez to thrive off punching in between the exchanges; a rare skill not many fighters possess.
For example, long reigning middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin rarely counter punches his opponents. He doesn’t really have to.
Golovkin is so effective from an offensive standpoint with his ability cut the ring off and force fighters into retreat mode with his precision and power punching.
When fighters actually attempt to fight back or better yet initiate the attack, they can push back Golovkin and temporarily nullify his momentum.
Examples include former welterweight champion Kell Brook and former middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs.
When someone throws combinations at Golovkin, he has a tendency to shell up with his high guard, not utilizing head movement or trying to punch in between the exchange.
One of Sanchez’s patented moves was to dip down and shoot a punch from a low angle; an awkward punch often catching opponents by surprise.
From a defensive standpoint, although an elite counter-puncher, Sanchez had a tendency to get hit every now and then.
What Sanchez did effectively however, was roll with the incoming punches; by rolling with the punches, the defender can lessen the impact and mitigate the damage.
Comparatively speaking, Floyd Mayweather for instance is a different type of counter-puncher. Mayweather has a series of defensive tactics and tricks to smother punches and effectively dodge attacks.
Mayweather is prone to dodge the incoming punch with a pull-back countering motion; straightening his spine and snapping his neck back, pulling his head out of range and countering (typically with a right hand) in return.
Many times when Sanchez would avoid a punch he would come back with a series of punches (as opposed to one) in return.
Even while eating a punch, he is bouncing off his toes, springing into action and hurling several punches back in return.
Sanchez also had a tendency (much like Mayweather) to use his forearm for offensive and defensive purposes. It’s probable the self-proclaimed “TBE” intently studied Sanchez in his younger years.
Standing 5’ 7” with a 68 inch reach he was monster at featherweight. Due to his ability to slip punches and his mastery of range, Sanchez was essentially effective in close-quarters, within the pocket and from the outside.
Along with blazing hand speed, Sanchez appeared to have an endless supply of energy. He is one of the more well-conditioned athletes you’ll ever see. For any anime nerds out there, his level of endurance is similar to the Nine-tailed fox in Naruto.
It can be said, one attains greatness through experience and Sanchez certainly started young.
Sanchez turned professional at the young age of 16; similar to boxing prodigy Wilfred Benitez (turned pro at age 15) and current great fighter in the making Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (turned pro at age 15).
Five years into his professional career at the age of 21, Sanchez captured gold winning the WBC Featherweight Championship by stopping Danny Lopez in thirteen rounds on February 2, 1980.
Sanchez would knock Lopez out again four months later.
Over the course of 29 months, including 9 title defenses, Sanchez essentially faced and defeated the best fighters in the featherweight division. Ruben Castillo, Juan Laporte and Patrick Ford were impressive fighters.
Sanchez’s busy schedule matched his busy style in the ring.
Lopez, Wilfredo Gomez and Azumah Nelson are the most notable names and impressive wins on the resume.
His highest profile fight was arguably against the WBC super-bantamweight champion Gomez. The Puerto Rican star 32-0-1 (32 KOs) was undefeated at the time and stopped in eight rounds; serving as one of the quintessential bouts in the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry.
1981 was a big year for Sanchez as he shared The Ring honors as “Fighter of the year” along with Sugar Ray Leonard.
Sanchez successfully defended his WBC featherweight title for the ninth and final time stopping Nelson in fifteen rounds at Madison Square Garden in New York City on July 21, 1982.
Unfortunately less than a month later, tragedy struck and Sanchez lost his life.
We can only wonder the path and series of fights that awaited Sanchez. A rematch with Nelson or Gomez was a possibility.
Or even greater aspirations and a meeting against another legend Alexis Arguello was a possibility. Sky was the limit for Sanchez.
Sanchez undoubtedly had a large impact on boxing, influencing the likes of Mayweather, Julio Cesar Chavez, Ricardo Lopez, Juan Manuel Marquez and countless others.
All we can do now is speculate the what if’s and celebrate the moments he created in the thing. As a fan of the sweet science, I’d like to thank Salvador Sanchez for all of his contributions.