IN THE case of Salvador Sanchez, the boxing world will forever wonder, what if? Sanchez was the reigning WBC featherweight champion when he died in an auto accident on August 12, 1982.
What we do know, is that at the age of 23, Sanchez was in his prime and considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Sanchez turned pro at the age of 16 and won 17 of his first 18 bouts by knockout. Although he was tall and thin, Salvador packed considerable power.
But punching power wasn't all he brought into the ring. Sanchez was a an excellent counterpuncher, dismantling many of his opponents with accurate and swift counterpunches.
In 1977, Sanchez lost a 12-round decision to Antonio Becerra for the vacant Mexican bantamweight title. He would never lose again. In 1980, he met popular WBC featherweight champion Danny "Little Red" Lopez, a hard-hitting American who had made nine successful title defenses.
Sanchez dissected Lopez with precision and power, scoring a 13th-round TKO. Salvador made four successful title defenses before the year ended, decisioning Ruben Castillo, knocking out Lopez in the 14th round of their rematch, and then decisioning Patrick Ford and future featherweight champion Juan LaPorte.
The Mexican warrior may best be remembered for his 1981 fight against Wilfredo Gomez, the WBC junior featherweight champion. Gomez was unbeaten in 33 fights with 32 knockouts. Still, Sanchez decimated the future Hall of Famer. He dropped Gomez in the first round and maintained a consistent attack until the fight was stopped in the eighth round.
In his final bout, on July 21, 1982, Sanchez turned back a young and aggressive Azumah Nelson at Madison Square Garden for his ninth title defense. The fight was stopped at 1:45 of the 15th round. Nelson would go on to win world titles in two weight classes. But three weeks after their fight, Sanchez was died.