Home Columns What if Salvador Sanchez Had Lived? Part 2

What if Salvador Sanchez Had Lived? Part 2

Sanchez Continues his Rampage with a Showdown Against Julio Cesar Chavez

Read Part 1 Here

Salvador Sanchez knocked out an able, but thoroughly over-matched journeyman before a roaring Mexico City crowd in a non-title bout in November 1983. It cemented his standing as the crowned King of Mexican Boxing. On the undercard was Cornelius Boza Edwards of Uganda, the number one contender and former champion. After a lengthy Christmas vacation, Sanchez went back to the gym and started preparing for the next challenge to his WBC Super Featherweight Title. Edwards missed the 1976 Olympics only because of international politics, and his southpaw boxer-puncher style had beaten such luminaries as Bobby Chacon and Rafael Limon. The two fighters met for an HBO broadcast in March 1984, and the streaking Sanchez stopped Edwards in eight rounds.

The question in early 1984 was “what next?” Sanchez was fast cleaning out the 130 lbs. division. Eusebio Pedroza, the longtime WBA 126 lbs. champion, balked at the idea of coming up in weight to challenge Sanchez. Limon’s rival Bobby Chacon was out there, but not mega-fight material. Sanchez could also move up and go after lightweight king Alexis Arguello. However, in February 1984, Rocky Lockridge had captured the WBA crown by knocking out Roger Mayweather in a single round, and that was the fight HBO was hot for. The fight was booked for June 1984. Lockridge would later succumb to drug abuse, but he was clean at this stage of his career and gave Sanchez a handful. Still, Sanchez’s combination of punches in bunches, sustained work rate, aggression and elusive head movement shut down and defeated Lockridge in a clean points win.

On the undercard of that bout, the aforementioned Roger Mayweather was matched with a rising puncher from Mexico named Julio Cesar Chavez and knocked out in two. Chavez had also demolished Ruben Castillo in six. He was a rising star in Mexican boxing, and unless Sanchez wanted to go up to 135 lbs., he was the only fighter in the division left worth duking it out with. The fight was made for November 1984.

Less than 20 seconds from the opening bell, Chavez stood in the center ring and missed with a mean left hook upstairs. Sanchez made him pay with a four-punch combo, two upstairs and two downstairs, which made Chavez back up a step. Chavez reversed that step, catching Sanchez with a left hook to the body that stopped the champion dead in his tracks as he followed Chavez forward. A blistering exchange erupted as the two Mexican warriors tore at each other for a full two and a half minutes, flowing back and forth across the center ring. The roaring crowd stayed on their feet and cheered as Chavez and Sanchez went back to their stools after the greatest opening round of boxing history.

In the war that followed, Chavez neutralized Sanchez’s head movement by attacking the rib cage, and relied on his cast-iron chin to protect him from the speedy counter-right that usually shot through the gap that opened whenever he pitched a hard left hook to the body. Sanchez could ding that chin, but not dent it. However, he had a number of key advantages. First, being in a long battle of attrition was nothing new to Sanchez, having prevailed over Danny Lopez and Azumah Nelson in fights from the old 15-Round days. Chavez had yet to experience such any such thing, and while he had the willpower, he did not have the experience.

Tiring and over-spent, Chavez slowed down in the seventh and eighth rounds to collect his gas. Sanchez kept up the same, constant pace, pushed Chavez back and decisively bagged both rounds. Sanchez then stormed forward and turned up the gas in the 11th and 12th, stealing the 11th on all cards and the 12th on two of them. Chavez fought back hard in the final round, but couldn’t quite keep up in the final minutes.

The crowd was on its feet waiting for the verdict to be announced: Chavez 115-113, Sanchez 115-113 and 117-111. The latter scorecard was roundly condemned by the press as ridiculous, but no one really argued that Sanchez had not won a close, hard-fought battle with Chavez. Salvador Sanchez closed 1984 safe on his throne as the king of Mexican boxing. …. To be continued …