Salvador Sanchez Santiago (January 26, 1959- August 12, 1982), better known as Salvador Sánchez, was a Mexican boxer born in the small town of Santiago Tianguistenco, Mexico.
Sánchez started his career very young, as a teenager, and he started piling up wins against tough Mexican opposition. His first fight of note came against the Mexican featherweight champion Antonio Becerra, and Becerra proved far too experienced for the young Sánchez, dropping him in the first round , en route to a 12 round unanimous decision. This would turn out to be Sánchez's last knockdown and loss suffered during his career.
Sánchez kept on fighting and moved to the Featherweight division. Soon he had beaten people like the Puerto Rican Featherweight champion Felix Trinidad Sr., on his way to securing a title shot at world champion Danny "Little Red" Lopez, a popular tv fighter of the late 1970s who was an impressive fighter and had won some spectacular fights against the likes of former world champion David Kotey (twice), Juan Malvares and Mike Ayala. Confident and hard to beat, Lopez was beaten by Sánchez, who knocked out the defending champion in 13 rounds in Phoenix, Arizona. Thinking it was just a case of 'beginner's luck' (as it was Sánchez's first world title fight ever) Lopez looked for a rematch and this he got, in Las Vegas. This time he lasted one more round.
After defeating the young future world champion Juan Laporte, Sánchez embarked on a string of defenses against men like Patrick Ford and Roberto Castanon, retaining his title each time. Then World Jr Featherweight champion Wilfredo Gomez went up in weight and challenged Sánchez. Sánchez retained the crown by a knockout in round eight on August 21, 1981 in Las Vegas, and Gómez had to return to the Jr. Featherweight division.
With that victory, Salvador Sánchez was an unknown to the casual boxing fan no more. He became a household name all over America that night.
Two fights later, his defense vs unheralded Jorge 'Rocky' Garcia was the first fight featuring two featherweights ever to be televised by HBO. He beat Garcia punch after punch, but the challenger gave honor to his nickname, an unknown fighter who lasts the distance with the world champion.
Then came Azumah Nelson at Madison Square Garden. The unknown Nelson came from Ghana and would later become a 3 time world champion and a future hall of famer. He was unknown however, and was expected to only go a few rounds with the champ. It was an intense battle, with Sánchez managing to drop his young charge in the 7th round. After that they engaged in violent exchange after violent exchange. In the 15th, Sánchez broke out finally, connecting with a serious combination that dropped the challenger almost outside the ring. Referee Tony Perez had to stop the fight seconds later.
Ironic as life is, that round 15 would be not only the last of that fight, but also the last round of Sánchez's life. As he was training for a rematch with Laporte set for September, he crashed on the early morning of August 12, 1982, dying instantly. All of Mexico and Latin America mourned the fallen champion. He was only 23.
At the time of his death, there were talks about a rematch with Gómez or a challenge of world lightweight champion Alexis Arguello. Tragically, it will never be known what could have happened in any of these fights.
He is a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame, alongside Gómez and Arguello.