A Dream Match Up Between Two Legends, Salvador Sanchez & Manny Pacquiao
Salvador Sanchez is one of boxing’s great “what ifs.” His 1980 to 1982 reign as WBC Featherweight Champion saw him carve a path of destruction through the division, and was brought to a halt only by Sanchez’s death in a car crash. At the age of 23, Sanchez had most of what would surely become a stellar career ahead of him.
Readers who have been following my multi-part, fictional history of the career of Salvador Sanchez are by now familiar with his attributes as a fighter. First and foremost, Sanchez was a swarmer. He came forward throwing punches in bunches, and was always in the kind of shape to fight every minute of every round for 15 whole rounds, for Sanchez all of his title fights were 15 rounders. Supplementing that offense were Sanchez’s good hand speed, superb head movement and counter-punching skills. Finally, Sanchez had a concrete chin. Wilfredo Gomez was ranked by The Ring as the 13th hardest pound-for-pound puncher of all-time, and yet even he was unable to dent Sanchez’s chin. How would such a fighter do against the famed “Mexi-Slayer,” Manny Pacquiao?
At 126 or 130 lbs., this is an awful match-up for Manny Pacquiao. At that stage in his career, Pacman was still punch-happy about his looping, overhand left, and had bad balance to boot. Because of that, Erik Morales was able to outbox him at 126. Juan Manuel Marquez came back from a 10-6 1st Round to pull out a draw, all with a broken nose, and in my book he edged Pacquiao in their 2008, 130 lbs. rematch. Pacquiao had flaws and was not quite what he would become later, and like Juan La Porte or Azumah Nelson, he would fight a Sanchez as a seasoned, strong champion.
In the opening round, both men would come forward and look to establish who was going to push who. Both would be somewhat cautious, but the refusal to back up would cause the fight to steadily escalate. Pacman would have easily been the fastest fighter Sanchez had ever seen, and those lightning bolt overhand lefts would find and score on Sanchez’s head much more often than the champion was used to. This would slow, but not stop Chava.
For his part, Pacquiao would find his efforts to apply pressure to Sanchez akin to feeding himself into a mincer. The two would meet and exchange blows, both scoring, but with Pacman hitting empty air as well. Whenever he missed, Sanchez would counter-punch him with a sharp combo. Both would score, but Sanchez would score more. Sanchez would suffer a cut from Pacquiao’s left by the 6th. Yet by the 8 or 9th Round, whenever Pacman threw the left and missed he would eat a sharp counter-combo. If Pacman did hit, Sanchez would counter to the body instead. Pacquiao’s main weapon would be effectively neutralized, but of course Pacquiao is Pacquiao, and he would refuse to back down. By Round 12, Pacman’s right eye would swell shut from all the leather counters. A 14th Round effort by Pacquiao to turn it around and knock out Sanchez would spend the rest of the Filipino’s gas. After weathering the storm, Chava would storm back and stop an exhausted, half-blind, valiant Pacquiao in a 15th Round TKO.
Later on in their careers, it would be a different story. The key to Manny Pacquiao’s stellar rise in weight class has been that he has grown into a true 140 lbs. fighter without losing even one iota of his hand speed. That is an extreme rarity, and I would never project the same thing for Sanchez. Furthermore, as time went by Pacman adapted in the wake of his bouts with Morales and Marquez by working on and improving his boxing style.
In a meeting at 135 lbs, Pacman would be sharper, tighter and just as fast. Sanchez would be slower and probably not have carried as much of his punching power up with him. However, Chava would still have his defensive and counter-punching prowess, as well as his concrete chin. A rematch would evolve much like a rubber match between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez would today, except that Sanchez would be very hard to knock down and damn near impossible to knock out. Pacquiao would win a clear Unanimous Decision.