DEATH OF A CHAMPION
At 3:30 a.m. last Thursday, on a highway north of Queretaro, Mexico, Salvador Sanchez, the WBC featherweight champion, was killed in a collision involving his white 1981 Porsche and two trucks. Police said that "excess speeding on the part of Sanchez" appeared to be the cause of the collision. Like WBC lightweight champion Alexis Arguello, the 23-year-old Sanchez had only recently come to be fully appreciated by this country's fight fans, although in his native Mexico he had long been a national hero. He had gained ever-wider acceptance as the outstanding featherweight of recent times; not long ago Ring magazine ranked him No. 6 in the world among all current boxers, regardless of class. The quickness and crisp punching power with which he won his title in February 1980 from Danny Lopez is still fresh in memory. So is the ease with which he dispatched the formidable Wilfredo Gomez in eight rounds in Las Vegas a year ago.
Barely three weeks before his death, Sanchez defended his title for the ninth time, knocking out Ghana's Azumah Nelson in the 15th round in Madison Square Garden to bring his record to 43-1-1. The next evening he was relaxing in the bar of a Manhattan hotel. Sanchez was full of plans. He had a firm date, he told SI's Clive Gammon, with Juan La Porte at the Garden in September. " Salvador Sanchez will triumph in New York again," he said, a grin spreading over handsome features marred only by a squashed nose, a legacy of his second professional fight, in which he knocked out Miguel Ortiz in 1975. More than anything, though, he said, he looked forward to moving up in weight to challenge Arguello, a match that would surely have preempted every TV set in Latin America. "I want him very much. I have the weaponry to beat him," Sanchez said. Then, with another grin, he declared, "Mi horizonte es muy negro" (My future is very black). This was said in a winking, just-kidding manner, the words rich in irony. Friends slapped him on the back to acknowledge the little jest. His future, in fact, could never have been brighter. Or so it seemed less than a month ago.