The Unforgettable Salvador Sánchez

By Mauricio Sulaimán
Son of José Sulaimán / WBC President

This past Saturday we remembered, with great nostalgia, a legendary champion who left us on the path of no return after suffering a tragic car accident, Salvador Sánchez.

Sal Sánchez died on August 12, 1982, as he was driving his Porsche on the way to start his camp for what would have been a legendary fight against Alexis Argüello. This great Mexican champion achieved a record of 44 wins, 32 by KO, a controversial loss by split decision, and a draw also in the midst of controversy.

He won the World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight world championship and defended it 10 times. He beat Danny “Little Red” López and conquered the WBC championship, and defeated other greats, including Rubén Castillo, Juan Laporte and Félix Trinidad Sr., but the fight that raised him to the top was when he dispatched the executioner of the Mexicans, Wilfredo Gómez from Puerto Rico.

It was one of the biggest fights in history, which took place at Caesars Palace Pavilion in Las Vegas. Gómez was a heavy favorite in the Sportsbook. He entered the ring as the WBC world champion in the super bantamweight category, with a record of 32-0, all wins by knockout, and was looking to conquer the WBC featherweight championship in the hands of Salvador Sánchez. The atmosphere was electrifying. Don King, without a doubt one of the best boxing promoters in history, managed to bring up to a salsa group to the corner of Gómez and a mariachi band to Sánchez’ corner. The fans went crazy with the spectacle of both bands, trying with all their might, to sound louder and to outshine the other.

From the outset, Sal Sánchez imposed his power and glory, sending the Gomez to the canvas. While in the following episodes, he severely punished him until in the eighth round, when he again dramatically knocked him down. But Gómez’ bravery and warrior heart led him to get back up. Referee Carlos Padilla stopped the fight, and thus the Mexican became a national hero, an idol of the people.

His last fight was extremely tough against a then unknown Ghanaian, Azumah Nelson, who later became the most important African boxer in history. It was a dramatic fight that was defined by knockout in the last seconds of Round 15. Oddly enough, that was one of the last fights fought for 15 rounds. There the career of Salvador Sánchez ended, and that of the now Hall of Famer Azumah Nelson was born.

Year after year, the Sánchez family organizes a great festivity to remember the favorite son of Santiago Tianguistengo. After the mass in the cathedral, a procession leaves that walks to the cemetery to visit his grave, leave flowers, pray, and pay homage in silence. After that, the mariachi sounds with poignant clarion clarity and his feats are remembered in this emotional eternal tribute. Wilfredo Gómez, Don King, Alexis Argüello, Juan Laporte, Carlos Zárate, and countless boxing personalities have attended this festivity. The ultimate tribute of respect.

After the cemetery there is an amateur boxing show and a great meal prepared by the same family to serve all the visitors. A celebration of life.

May beloved and revered Salvador Sánchez rest in peace! His memory is everlasting and the speculation of how far his boxing career would have gone will forever be one of the great mysteries of world boxing.

Boxing is an appreciation sport. Just as the judges write down the scores on their cards, round after round, based on what they could appreciate of the actions, and thus they award the decision of winner and loser of the round. We are all concerned, as there is something happening in our sport worldwide. Scoring seems to be more inconsistent than ever, not necessarily wrong decisions, but the lack of uniformity between officials scoring the fights is dramatic. Almost every week we see judges score with great difference between themselves, judges scoring wide in fights which seem close, judges apart from his peers, and this has caused concern to our industry. There is an urgent need to address the matter, take actions and work towards achieving uniformity for justice. Scoring criteria seems to be like languages, some understand its particulars differently. We need to make clear criteria to be implemented and respected and have judges’ evaluation, evaluate each performance, and have accountability.

In addition, the rating of the fighters in each category are made through the appreciation of a qualified and expert committee in boxing.

The rankings are based on various criteria to analyze each fighter, and thus determine the lists of the 18 existing categories in the WBC. The fighter’s record is obviously one of the main concepts in determining his value, but it can be misleading. The record is just a piece of paper that does not speak and must be studied in depth to evaluate the following considerations:

• Fights won, lost, and drawn.

• Level of opposition, that is, the quality of the rivals.

• Where the matches take place; that is, if he is a boxer fights at home or if he goes out to fight at the rival’s.

• Result of the combats, if it is by KO or decision and dominance and closeness of the fights.

• Level of fights held and their importance: regional and international title championship fights.

• Experience and number of rounds.

• Activity vs. inactivity.

This is how the WBC Ratings Committee, made up of experts from many countries around the world, analyzes week after week, the lists for once a month, meet by zoom for six or eight hours on Sunday, and thus make the official classifications that are they publish monthly.


People like to compare Salvador Sánchez with Julio César Chávez. It is disputed who would have won, because if the tragedy had not happened, they would have faced each other in one of the divisions in which J.C. fought. Julio César himself, who is an example of humbleness and greatness, often says that Sánchez would have won. Yes, it is the best tribute that the legacy of Sal Sánchez could receive.


My dad was at the Caesars Palace bar the day before the Sánchez vs. Gomez fight. While he was having coffee, a good friend of his, a person he had known for a long time, came by and showed him a betting slip he had just purchased. “Wow, my dear friend! Say goodbye to your money, Salvador Sánchez is bigger than Gómez, and he will surely beat him.” His friend replied “But how, if Gómez is a 4 to 1 favorite?”

Early Sunday after the fight, my dad was in his room still in pajamas. And he told us the story of what transpired: “Some guys knocked on my door and asked me to identify myself and they went into the room. They were from the FBI, investigating why my friend had placed two bets: one in favor of Gómez and later, a bigger one in favor of Sánchez! From that day on, my dad never gave a forecast of any fight again, not even to the family.

I appreciate your feedback at [email protected].

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  • How can viciously corrupt WBC have or claim rights over the legacy of the great Salvador Sanchez?

  • one the all time greats, and only 23 years old, one can only think of the greatness in boxing that was there for his taking.

  • I remember watching a Wilfredo Gomez documentary back in the day, and Gomez said he cried like a baby when Sanchez died, because he knew he could never get a rematch!

    Gomez is one the greatest superbantam/featherweights I’d ever seen lace on a pair of gloves.

    Sanchez beat some big names and he looked like the goods. Unfortunately, Gomez acquired a drug habit and boxing wasn’t his main focus around the time him and Sanchez fought.

    NO EXCUSES…… but it would have been interesting to see them both in tip top shape when they finally met. Would have been a different fight in my opinion!

    RIP Champ! “viva mexico cabrones”!!!!!!

    • Interesting article. I never realized he fought Trinidad Sr. This is also the first I heard that he was on his way to start training for Alexis Argüello. Being that he just fought Nelson in a very tough fight just about 3 weeks prior makes it hard to believe. It was a different time and maybe it was true but I have not never read that until now. If it is…quite fascinating!

      • I never heard this either. Wonder if its true? Would heve been a great fight, but in a 15 rounder, Arguello breaks Sanchez down and stops him late. Arguello was devastating..

        • It would have been a barnburner, yet we will never really know. We have to look at the level of opponents for both. Have you ever heard of Aarron “The Hawk” Pryor? In my humble opinion & based on both
          resumes, the best all-around Mexican fighter in boxing history Salvador Sanchez would have did what he did to just about all of his opponents. Few fighters can adapt to any style, make all necessary adjustments, in a variety of ways, and break down their opponent in convincing fashion. Who can say I cracked “His Code”? So put some respect on Salvador Sanchezs’ name.

  • Very nice tribute, but have to correct you. Salvador, when he died, was actually training for Mario Miranda, who was the top contender and was injured which caused the great Azumah Nelson, unknown at 13-10 to come in. Miranda and Juan Laporte, for for Salvador’s vacant title after his death with Juan, winning in an upset.

  • Sanchez was always with in great shape , his physical condition was amazing I think the best 4 boxers with the best physical conditions are:

    Finito López
    Salvador Sánchez
    Floyd Mayweather
    And manny Pacquiao

    Sanchez could fought 50 Rounds and he would not be tired

  • Finito López phrase was:

    “””if you gona fight against solid champion run 5 miles , if you gona run against unknown boxer run 10””””

  • O e thing that piss me off is when the boxer says:

    “””I lost because I did not train well””

  • I followed Alexis Arguello’s boxing career since he was a bantamweight until his retirement from boxing, and he was never slated to face Salvador Sanchez, who was a featherweight, in preparation to give a rematch to Juan Laporte when he died, while Alexis was already fighting as a Jr. Welterweight. By the time Salvador Sanchez died, Alexis had just fought Kevin Roney at Junior Welterweight one week before in preparation for his fight against Aaron Pryor, which took place in November of the same year. Please keep your ignorance of the sport of boxing in a corner of your desk.

    • Well in a interview sanchez said he was moving up to fight Argüello at 130 lbs so nobody is inventing anything

      • You fool Carlos, when Sanchez fought Gomez, Arguello was already a Lightweight, and when he died, Arguello was a Jr Welterweight. Cheap stuff you smoking lately

        • Im saying what Sanchez said in a interview these are not my words
          So he might move up to 135 lbs then

    • Sounds like you and suliman are going to start training soon buracho when’s the fight

  • I observed poor reporting in this article: Sanchez was supposed to fight Juan Laporte when he died, not Alexis Atguello; Wilfredo Gomez wasn’t 32-0 when he fought Sanchez; he was 32-0-1, a draw that happened in a disappointing first-fight debut in Panama (Arena Nuevo Panama); and Tito Trinida was not even close to being a good fighter, let alone a great, and some other errors

  • its a good thing mauricio sulaiman was not in charge of the wbc back then ; not that jose sulaiman was much better ; there was no franchise belt or making up /changing rules as they went along back then ; now the w.w. e . has more credibility than the w.b.c. ;

  • Sanchez and ray leonard were the fighters of the year in 1982 or 1981 I can’t remember

  • I’m still disappointed that Sanchez never fought Eusebio Pedroza. One of my all-time dream matches.

  • true boxing fans know you are “punishing” bivol for beating and not following the “script ” versus your “cash cow / a.t.m. machine” canelo. pure vindictiveness .

  • Arguello was great, but always lost or struggled with fighters that had movement, was very robotic. Sanchez didn’t beat you with power, he beat you because he was too smart. No one threw and landed combinations as precise or lethal as Salvador. He was like a mini-Bivol, but with more power and stamina. Arguello and Chavez had more power, but they would still lose. They would get outclassed bad. They say his brake lines and car crash site were tampered with, his family never receiving money owed. Corruption in Mexico and boxing knows no ends, always taking away the best from us(Sanchez, Colosio)

  • My favorite of all time. He was the best defensive fighter I’ve ever seen. He didn’t get hit. I was stunned at how easily he handled Wilfredo Gómez who at the time was at the top of his game. By the way, James Toney was close to him in defensive prowess.

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