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Boxing Perspective: Salvador Sanchez – They Called Him Chava

Fighters are interesting people. Many fight because it is a means to an end or their only chance of becoming a professional athlete, without any college to play for, or any type of extensive amateur experience.

I always find it fascinating to see how a fighter progresses throughout his career, be it good or bad. Some become legends, others become buffoons, while some yet become part of folklore, making them larger then life.

It is also on rare occasion that careers get cut short due to no one's particular fault other then that of fate. Some are injured, some simply waste their given talents and others yet pass away unexpectedly before reaching their maximum potential.

On January 26, 1959, one of the sport's greats that bloomed into folklore status was born and his name was Salvador Sanchez.

Sanchez turned professional on May 4, 1975 at the age of 16 in Veracruz, Mexico, with the face of an innocent child and hands of dynamite. It was obvious from that first bout that we were going to witness something special on the boxing scene.

Sanchez won 18 straight before a split decision loss against Antonio Becerra for the Mexican Bantamweight Championship and three fights later, he received a draw in a bout against Juan Escobar.

Some thought we may have gotten a bit overzealous about the young puncher from Santiago Tianguistenco, but all doubts were soon erased after Sanchez went another 13 straight without faltering.

Sanchez was now a bonafied force in boxing and on February 2, 1980, he faced the great Danny "Little Red" Lopez for the WBC Featherweight Championship of the World.

Sanchez walked away with not only Lopez's title, but the admiration of all his countrymen as well, when he became the first Mexican since Ruben Olivarez to don a Featherweight Championship.

After one defense, Sanchez gave Lopez a chance to regain his title. This time, Lopez lasted just one round longer than in their first meeting and was stopped at 1:42 of round 14.

Sanchez would defend the title six more times, and one defense would be against the then undefeated and future Hall of Fame fighter Wilfredo Gomez, who was turned away after just 2:09 in round eight.

Less then on year later, Sanchez would face another future Hall of Fame fighter Azuma Nelson. Nelson, who was still relatively new to boxing, produced perhaps the toughest bout of Sanchez's career before being stopped in the 15Th and final round.

After the Nelson fight, Sanchez had grown in immensely in popularity. He was adored by not only Mexican fans, but fans around the world.

The boxing world waited with excitement to see who Salvador would face next, to show off his greatness in the ring.

On August 12, 1982, that excitement turned into grief as it was announced that Sanchez had passed away after a head on collision while trying to pass a truck in front of him. The young fighter was only 23 years old.

Salvador Sanchez became one of boxing's favorite sons in a very short time. He was still growing as a fighter at the time of his death, but there are some who believe that Sanchez's skills would not have improved even if he had lived that fateful day, because he was already at his peak.

Others yet say Sanchez had not even scratched the surface of his potential. If that is true or not will always remain speculation, but I certainly for one would have loved to see exactly how far Sanchez would have gone if not for tragedy.

There is a rumor that at his funeral, fighters came and rubbed their hands in the dirt he had been buried in to gain some of his strength and pay tribute. Those in attendance say Azuma Nelson wept openly at the passing of his former opponent.

In 1991, Sanchez was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and in 1999, the Associated Press named him the third greatest featherweight of all time and still to this day holds that rating.

Those who knew Salvador Sanchez called him "Chava"; history calls him one of the greats.

About Daxx Kahn

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