Featherweight – Eusebio Pedroza vs. Salvador Sanchez
Best time to make this fight: July of 1982
Reasons: July 21, 1982 was the date Sanchez stopped then-unknown late sub Azumah Nelson in the 15th round, six weeks after decisioning Rocky Garcia. Four days before Sanchez-Nelson, Pedroza notched a two-round no contest against Rudy Alpizar in an over-the-weight match staged nearly six months after his foul-filled decision over Juan LaPorte. Therefore, their schedules would have accommodated a unification match. The Sanchez-Nelson fight was the main event of a Don King closed circuit telecast, and a Sanchez-Pedroza showdown would have been televised on a similar pay-per-view platform for far bigger money and a deeply interested audience.
Why this fight made the list: Neither man was a big puncher but Sanchez’s class and Pedroza’s grit propelled both to high-quality reigns. During his four-plus years as champion to this point Pedroza retained his WBA belt 14 times, turning back the likes of Rocky Lockridge, Patrick Ford, Ruben Olivares (albeit faded), Juan Malvarez and LaPorte. Meanwhile Sanchez had stuffed eight defenses in 29 months and most of his opponents – Wilfredo Gomez, Ruben Castillo and Danny Lopez as well as Ford and LaPorte – were outstanding. Boxing is at its best when two battle-tested and tremendously talented fighters pit their wares against one another and Sanchez-Pedroza would have been an extraordinary spectacle.
What might have happened: Given their lack of one-punch power this likely would have gone the full 15. Pedroza owned one-and-a-half inch edges in height and reach but fought well – and often illegally – in the trenches. Sanchez was an elegant stylist but proved he could brawl against Gomez. This would be a fast-paced scientific fight between two men who were strongest in the late rounds. The 23-year-old Sanchez – nearly three years younger than Pedroza yet armed with high-level experience – would be that man.
Honorable mentions: Jeff Fenech vs. Antonio Esparragoza, Barry McGuigan vs. Azumah Nelson, Eusebio Pedroza vs. Danny Lopez, Jeff Fenech vs. Jorge Paez