Lee Groves

10: Best Mexico vs. Puerto Rico fights

4. Salvador Sanchez KO 8 Wilfredo Gomez — August 21, 1981, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada

This fight was billed as “The Battle of the Little Giants” because it was just that. Gomez, the WBC’s 122-pound titlist for more than four years, sat near the top of most pound-for-pound lists because of his 32-0-1 (32 KOs) record and his 13-for-13 knockout streak in title defenses, the longest in boxing history. On the other hand Sanchez (40-1-1, 30 KOs) had constructed a brilliant tenure in just 17 months as WBC featherweight king – five defenses against Danny Lopez, Ruben Castillo, Patrick Ford, Juan LaPorte and Roberto Castanon. Gomez was a puncher who could box while Sanchez was a boxer who could punch and the world couldn’t wait to see what their combined skills would produce.

Gomez entered the fight a 2-to-1 favorite, but what they didn’t know was that the “Bazooka” had to shed four pounds shortly before the fight. Whether that had anything to do with what followed is pure conjecture because nothing that unfolded lined up with conventional wisdom.

Just before the midway point in round one Sanchez instantly blunted a Gomez attack by knocking him down with a smashing right lead to the face and a left uppercut to the cheek. A badly shaken Gomez struggled to his feet at four and faced a tidal wave of blows that fractured Gomez’s right cheekbone and had him nearly out on his feet. Gomez somehow survived the rest of the round and surprised everyone by taking the fight to Sanchez in rounds two through five. The fifth was Gomez’s best as he found his second wind and popped Sanchez with power combinations for the majority of the session. The final 10 seconds, however, saw Sanchez hurt his rival with a trio of rights.

Despite Gomez’s success there was never a sense that Sanchez had surrendered control. His exquisite counters turned Gomez’s face into a ugly, misshapen mess and by the sixth he resumed his devastating long-range boxing. No matter who was in control the heated pace remained the same, and that was best epitomized by the sensational seventh, a round that saw both men score heavily.

With his eyes in horrible shape, Gomez went for broke in round eight — and ended up being broken. With Gomez trapped against the ropes Sanchez landed three ripping rights that further scrambled Gomez’s features. A fourth right buckled Gomez’s legs and a seven-punch salvo dumped the challenger for the second time. Although he was up by eight, referee Carlos Padilla saw no point in letting the fight continue and waved it off at the 2:09 mark.

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