Preparing for War: Gomez vs. Sanchez: Part I

By Christian Giudice on October 13, 2014
Preparing for War: Gomez vs. Sanchez: Part I
Not as effusive or arrogant, Sanchez vowed to make Gomez pay for his transgressions.

When told of Gomez’s bold prediction that he would knock Sanchez out in the late rounds, Sanchez calmly replied, “Gomez is just another challenger…”

Heading into the historic 1981 matchup appropriately dubbed, “The Battle of the Little Giants,” Mexican legend Salvador Sanchez and Puerto Rican hero Wilfredo Gomez understood the repercussions of what a loss would do to their stature in their respective countries. Thus, each fighter promised to be adamantly devoted to the task of preparing themselves for war.

The offensive-minded Wilfredo Gomez mirrored Roberto Duran’s attacking style where he didn’t stop punching for the entire three minutes of each round. He was a marvel with head feints, slips, and footwork, and rarely got hit with big punches. When Gomez got hit, he then showcased his iron chin. Although, Gomez didn’t possess the same one punch knockout power of Alexis Arguello, nor was he as elusive as countryman and friend Wilfred Benitez, he still may have been the most tantalizing to watch of all three Latin champs in 10-second bursts. Similar to Duran, Arguello, and Benitez, when Gomez walked into a fight in shape, he was nearly unbeatable. Away from the ring, people clamored to be near him as he was both charismatic and polarizing.

“Everyone loved him in Puerto Rico,” said boxing journalist, Antonio Martin.

In return, he loved them back. Of all of the criticism that Gomez received, no one could question his love for his homeland. Gomez was born in Las Monjas, Puerto Rico on October 29, 1957, and was forced to get a job selling candies on his bicycle to help support his family. By the age of 17, Gomez had cemented his amateur legacy through his domination in both the 1974 World Championships, held in Havana, Cuba and the Central American and Caribbean Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Gomez embraced the move to the professional ranks in order to help get his family out of poverty. In a commonly known fact among all Puerto Ricans, Gomez made sure to buy his father a taxi cab with his first paycheck. It’s hard to believe that the heralded amateur began his career with a draw.

His opponent, Salvador Sanchez was born on February 3, 1958 in Santiago Tianquistenco, Mexico. He began to box at age 14. Similar to Gomez, Sanchez made his professional debut at age 17. Sanchez disposed of his first opponent in three rounds. By February 1980, Sanchez had decisioned Danny Lopez for the WBC Featherweight crown.

Inside the ring, few parallels existed. Sanchez relied on his height and incredible stamina, but he lacked Gomez’s speed, movement, and power. The Puerto Rican champ had knocked out every challenger leading up to the bout with the exception of a draw to Jacinto Fuentes in his first pro bout; Sanchez, less heralded, but just as dangerous, hadn’t always won with such panache. Despite defending his WBC title five times prior to the Gomez showdown, Sanchez pounded out a lackluster unanimous decision over lightly regarded Nicky Perez. Against Gomez, Sanchez would be making his sixth defense of his title.

One of the underlying storylines was the revenge factor. Gomez had earned a reputation for beating Mexico’s greatest champions, and Sanchez’s countrymen never truly recovered from the beating Gomez gave Carlos Zarate.

Gomez didn’t hold back from the pre-fight bluster as he talked about ransacking Sanchez entire body when he told a reporter, “I will hit him in his heart, his liver, his lungs, and his pancreas.” The insults and provocations were not lost on Sanchez, who used them as motivation when he entered the ring. Having been around the sport long enough, Sanchez knew the benefits of hyping a fight at all costs, as he retorted with the famous line: Gomez better take a picture of himself because he won’t recognize himself after this fight. Not as effusive or arrogant, Sanchez vowed to make the Puerto Rican pay for his transgressions. Loyalist fans took sides as the salsa and mariachi bands signaled the emergence of each fighter.

Not one to initiate a confrontation, Sanchez was laid-back and his playful nature often came out in interviews. He was a kid at heart, with a counterpunching style that destroyed stronger opponents. The odds were in Gomez’s favor as fight fans were not completely sold on Sanchez. Even though Sanchez had clearly improved with each bout, he wasn’t as decorated as Gomez was.

The more compact 5’6” Gomez, whose staple mustache belied a baby face, was significantly shorter than Sanchez. His frame lacked the sharp muscular tone of a fighter who demanded precision and perfection in training sessions, but the appearance didn’t fool anyone; Gomez punched to hurt his opponent. Each offering was more dangerous than the next one.

Although most fighters of Gomez’s stature struggle to obtain position on the inside against a taller fighter, that was his strength. When he did find his way inside, Gomez relied on accuracy and an innate skill to avoid any significant counters. What he did was fight in bursts, so ferociously that all 32 opponents succumbed to his attack. No fighter in the world could match Gomez in that category; violence was his forte.

When told of Gomez’s bold prediction that he would knock Sanchez out in the late rounds, Sanchez calmly replied, “Gomez is just another challenger.”

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  1. n 09:37pm, 10/24/2014

    “Preparing for War: Gomez vs. Sanchez: Part I” side information about Sanchez data has an error. It states that in 1982 he fought Lomachenko. At that time he was only 6 years old jojojo.

  2. bikermike 06:41am, 10/17/2014

    Sanchez was such a complete fighter….Gomez was frustrated , time and time again .
    Sanchez left us too soon.
    Gomez just couldn’t catch Sanchez…

  3. Adrian 02:53am, 10/14/2014


  4. The Flea 06:45am, 10/13/2014

    Gomez didn’t seem that iron chinned when average punching T-Rex armed Yum sat him down. Hurt him after that as well.

    Gomez was durable, but he wasn’t Villasana tough.

  5. Eric 06:21am, 10/13/2014

    Sanchez never seemed to get tired. The result of this fight was as shocking as the Hearns vs. Duran bout a few years later. Before the fight there was no way I would have figured that Sanchez would totally dominate Gomez the way he did. Sanchez would’ve probably captured titles at 130-135 & maybe even 140lbs had he not died tragically at such a young age.

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