Richard Sandoval (born October 18, 1960 in Pomona, California), better known as Richie Sandoval, is a Mexican-American former boxer whose life almost ended in tragedy during his last fight as a professional.
The city of Pomona, in particular, has been known for a very long time as a hot-bed for young boxing prospects. Sandoval's brother, Arturo, was a popular Bantamweight of the 1970s who unsuccessfully challenged Carlos Zarate and Lupe Pintor for the world title. Sandoval would meet another future world champion, Alberto Davila, at Pomona boxing gyms. Eventually, they became friends, and, perhaps ironically, they shared the burden of boxing's dangers later on in life.
It shall be pointed out that Pomona is also the hometown of Shane Mosley.
Richie Sandoval made his professional boxing debut on November 5, 1980, beating Gerardo Pedroza in Las Vegas, Nevada, by a knockout in two rounds. He won his first ten fights by knockout, including two over fringe contender Javier Barajas.
For his eleventh fight, he met Harold Petty, a boxer who is still fighting professionally at the age of 42, and who challenged twice for world titles. On January 28, 1982, he defeated the until then undefeated Petty by a ten round decision. He would have seven more wins that year, including another ten round points victory over Petty.
He had five wins in 1983, year in which his friend, Davila, won the WBC world Bantamweight title by knocking out Kiko Bejines, who died days later. Sandoval then saw. for the first time, the tragic side of boxing closely, seeing how hard it was for Davila to recover from such tragedy.
Sandoval's next fight was held on March 15, 1984. Despite the fact that he owned a record of 22 victories without any losses, with fifteen knockouts, he was a virtual unknown to most boxing fans when he met the WBA world Bantamweight champion Jeff Chandler in Atlantic City. After dropping the champion in round eleven, Sandoval knocked Chandler out in round fifteen, becoming world Bantamweight champion and causing a major upset. For his next fight, held on September 22 of that same year, Sandoval travelled abroad for the first time in his professional career, beating the top ranked and well known Edgar Roman by a fifteen round decision at Monte Carlo, Monaco, to retain the title as part of an undercard that included Donald Curry's sixth round knockout win over Nino LaRocca.
His next fight, on December 15 of that year, was against Cardenio Ulloa of Chile. According to the report made by The Ring En Espanol, Ulloa, who was attempting to become the first Chilean world boxing champion in history, made Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet jump off his chair when he dropped Sandoval in the first round, but Sandoval recovered and retained the title with an eighth round knockout.
By then, however, Sandoval was facing weight problems and he could barely make weight for fights at the Featherweight division, two divisions above his weight class, and he was forced to fight all his fights in 1985 as a Featherweight instead. He scored three ten round decisions that year and one in 1986, including wins over Frankie Duarte and Diego Avila.
After not defending his title for a year and a half, he was forced by the WBA to defend his title or vacate it. He chose to defend it, despite his problems to make weight.
On March 3 of 1986, he defended his title against Gaby Canizales, as part of a super-undercard organized by promoter Bob Arum, including the Hearns versus Shuler and Hagler versus Mugabi encounters. Sandoval reportedly had to lose around twelve pounds in three days in order to be able to fight that night, staying off any solid foods and surviving on water for those three days. Weakened and feeling the side effects of such a sudden drop-off in weight, Sandoval suffered four knockdowns, but he fought on until the fifth knockdown, which happened in round seven, after which the referee stopped the fight.
Sandoval fell unconscious a few minutes after the fight, and he stopped breathing for an estimated three minutes. He was rushed to a hospital by local, on-site paramedics, but he remained in critical condition for the next few nights. He had a life saving brain surgery, but, as a consequence of the surgery itself, he was not allowed to fight professionally again and was forced to retire with a record of 29 wins and one loss, 17 wins by knockout.
Had he not had this brain surgery, doctors prognosed, he would have died. But because of the type of proceeding involved in the surgery, he would not be allowed to fight again, as he would have been in greater risk of dying had he fought once again.
Sandoval later went touring across the United States with Davila, as both had been through both sides of a tragic boxing bout. They went to television talk-shows and public appearances to explain to the general public how a boxer feels (in Davila's case) after an opponent has died, and how a boxer can be so close to death in an instant after a fight (in Sandoval's case), and then having to deal with the fact that he or she will never be able to box again.