Died on this day: Salvador Sanchez
More than a few boxers have died too soon, leaving an infinite number of “what ifs” behind.
This extraordinary Mexican world champion is probably at the top of that list.
Salvador Sanchez Narvaez was born in January 26, 1959 in the town of Santiago Tianguistenco, Mexico. After only a handful of amateur fights he became a professional at the tender age of 16, taking on more experienced foes.
On his 19th bout, Sanchez took on Antonio Becerra with the Mexican bantamweight title on the line, and dropped a split decision. That would remain Sanchez’s only loss in his entire career. He would later be held to a majority draw against Juan Escobar two fights later before winning his next 24 bouts.
Moving up to the featherweight division as his tall and agile physique started accumulating weight, he marched on towards a world title opportunity, beating Felix Trinidad Sr. (father of the Puerto Rican multiple champion of the same name) in the process.
His first of many glorious nights came on February of 1980, when he defeated Ring featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez in a war to lay claim to a title that he would never relinquish in the ring. He defended it against the likes of Ruben Castillo and Juan Laporte during a nine-defense run, but his signature win would come in his August 1981 defense against Puerto Rican knockout artist Wilfredo Gomez, who was coming up in weight.
In a fight that remains one of the best-ever in the ongoing and historic Puerto Rico vs. Mexico confrontation, and one of the best of all time, Sanchez gave Gomez a boxing lesson through eight rounds before stopping his foe. Gomez was considered a force of nature, having won all of his bouts by knockout up to that day, but Sanchez proved too much for him in what remains one of boxing’s true masterpieces.
Sanchez went on to defeat Jorge Garcia and fellow future all-time great Azumah Nelson, before tragedy struck. As he was training for a rematch with Laporte set for September of 1982, Sanchez crashed his Porsche 928 sports car on a highway between Querétaro and San Luis Potosí, dying on the spot. He was 23-years old.
As Mexico mourned its hero and boxing lamented the departure of one of his finest practitioners of his era, the questions began to surface, and they remain coming up until this day. How would have Sanchez fared against the likes of Alexis Arguello (with whom there were already negotiations in place for a future bout) or Roberto Duran, and so many others? The grief of his death at such a young age could also be surpassed by the expectation of the future glories that he could have achieved.
Sanchez finished his career with a record of 44 wins against only one loss and one draw, with 32 stoppage wins. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He also wrote for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and other outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing