This June 21,1980 WBC Featherweight Championship Title Fight between Mexico’s Salvador Sanchez and USA’s Danny Little Red Lopez took place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas….and was the 2nd fight between these two world featherweight champions…..as Sanchez had taken the title away from Lopez just four months before on February 2, 1980 on a 14th round TKO at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona.
Salvador Sánchez started his professional career at the age of 16…and he started piling up wins against tough Mexican opposition….when his first fight of note came in his 19th professional fight against the Mexican bantamweight champion Antonio Becerra….who in this fight proved too experienced for the young Sánchez….as the bout ended in a split decision defeat for Sánchez. Salvador kept on fighting and moved to the Featherweight division….as he soon had beaten people like the Puerto Rican featherweight champion Felix Trinidad Sr…..while on his way to securing a title shot at world champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez….who was a popular TV fighter of the late 1970’s….as Lopez was an impressive fighter and had won some spectacular fights against the likes of former world champion David Kotei (twice), Juan Malvares and Mike Ayala. Confident and hard to beat, Lopez was beaten by the 21-year-old Sánchez….who knocked out the defending champion in 13 rounds in Phoenix, Arizona on February 2, 1980. Sánchez defended his title for the first time with a 15-round unanimous decision against Ruben Castillo (47–1). Thinking it was just a case of ‘beginner’s luck’….since it was Sánchez’s first world title fight ever….when Lopez looked for a rematch and this he got, in Las Vegas….as seen in this video herewith…..when Sánchez defeated Lopez by 14th-round TKO….as he went on to defeat Patrick Ford (15–0) in his next title defense.
On December 13, 1980, Sánchez defeated future champion Juan Laporte by unanimous decision…. when Sánchez then defended his title against Roberto Castanon (43–1–0)….then scored a win over Nicky Perez (50–3–0)….after which the then undefeated World Jr Featherweight champion Wilfredo Gómez (32–0–1) went up in weight and challenged Sánchez….as Salvador retained the crown by a knockout in round eight on August 21, 1981, in Las Vegas, and Gómez had to return to the Jr. Featherweight division….and with this victory….Sanchez was an unknown to the casual boxing fan no more….as he became a household name all over the United States that night. In his next fight, he defeated Olympic medalist Pat Cowdell by split decision….and then his title defense verses unheralded Jorge “Rocky” Garcia was the first fight featuring two featherweights ever to be televised by HBO….when he beat Garcia punch after punch….but the challenger gave honor to his nickname as an unknown fighter who lasts the distance with the world champion.
On July 21, 1982, Sánchez faced future champion Azumah Nelson at Madison Square Garden….when Nelson was a late substitute for mandatory challenger Mario Miranda….and was unknown at the time however….so the fight was expected to only go a few rounds with the champ. It was an intense battle, with Sánchez managing to drop his young charge in the 7th round. After that they engaged in violent exchange after violent exchange. In the 15th, Sánchez broke out finally, connecting with a serious combination that dropped the challenger almost outside the ring. Referee Tony Perez had to stop the fight seconds later….whereas Azumah Nelson went on to have a glittering career and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004.
Sánchez’s dominance as featherweight champion was such that he held title defense victories over thenext three fighters (LaPorte, Gomez, and Nelson) who won the WBC title after his death. Also notably, he went 4-0, all four wins by knockouts, against fellow members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Danny Lopez twice-KO 13, KO 14-Wilfredo Gomez-KO 8-and Azumah Nelson-KO 15).
Sanchez’ opponent in this fight….Danny Little Red Lopez began boxing professionally on May 27, 1971 by knocking out Steve Flajole in one round at Los Angeles….after which he won his first 21 fights in a row by knockout….which is still one of the longest knockout win streaks ever. The only one of his fights among those 21 fights outside Los Angeles took place in Honolulu, where he beat Ushiwakamaru Harada by a knockout in three.
On January 17, 1974, Genzo Kurosaw became the first person to go the distance with Lopez….with Little Red winning by a ten-round decision. His next fight, a month later, in Mexicali, Mexico was his first fight abroad….when he beat Memo Rodriguez by a knockout in nine rounds there.
People in Los Angeles were eager to see Lopez and another up-and-coming Angelino, Bobby Chacon, square off inside a ring….as the fight took place on May 24, and Lopez was knocked out in the ninth round in a thrilling fight…..which was followed by his next fight of note….when he lost once again by a knockout in round nine to Shig Furuyama. After defeating Octavio Gómez to begin 1975, Lopez went into a roll….which began with him beating Chucho Castilloby by a knockout in two rounds….then two more wins, and he was faced with Rubén Olivares…..whom he beat by a knockout in seven rounds….after recovering from a first round knockdown himself.
In 1976, he beat Sean O’ Grady by knockout in four….Gómez by knockout in three….and Art Hafey by knockout in seven. Finally ranked number one by the WBC….he travelled to Ghana to challenge world Featherweight champion David Kotei in front of an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 Kotei partisans…..as Lopez became world champion by outpointing Kotei over 15 rounds on November 6….as this trip proved to be troublesome for the new champion….when back in his hotel room, he tried to call his family in the United States to announce the good news….but all communication systems had been cut down in Ghana….so, Lopez then tried to send them a telegram through the American embassy in Accra….but they too were affected by the system failure and could not get his message through. Lopez’s family was finally able to realize that Danny was a world champion when they picked him up at the airport one week later.
Lopez won three fights in 1977, retaining the title once, against José Torres by a knockout in round seven….then he and Kotei had a rematch on February 15 of 1978….as part of the under card where Leon Spinks dethroned Muhammad Ali of the world Heavyweight title. Lopez knocked Kotei out in round six of their rematch….which was followed as he retained the title against Jose DePaula by knockout in round six….and Juan Malvares (on the undercard where Ali regained the title from Spinks) by knockout in two. On October 21, he had a fight with Fel Clemente, against whom he retained the world title with a four-round disqualification in Italy. By the end of 1978, there was much talk of a super-fight against world Jr. Featherweight champion Wilfredo Gómez, but the bout never materialized.
His fight on March 10 of 1979 against Spain’s Roberto Castanon in Salt Lake City….not only marked the first time he defended his world title in his home-state….but also the first time he fought in his home-state as a professional period. He retained the crown with a two-round knockout. Then, on June 17, at San Antonio, Lopez and Mike Ayala fought what boxing book The Ring: Boxing in the 20th Century called one of the best fights of 1979. Lopez retained the title with a 15th-round knockout, but the fight was marred by the finding afterwards that Ayala had been fighting under the influence of drugs. Nevertheless, this did not affect the fight’s result, but left many to speculate about how the fight would have ended had Ayala not been drugged during it. Ayala himself admitted to have been, in his own words, loaded on the day of the fight. Lopez went on to defend the title once more that year, knocking out Jose Caba in three rounds.
Lopez’s reign as world champion came to an end on February 2, 1980, at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix….when he met Salvador Sánchez that day….and he lost by knockout in round 13 in a one-sided affair. A rematch was fought on June 21, in Las Vegas….when this time around, Lopez was knocked out in the 14th round in a replay of their first fight. He announced his retirement after that fight. His record was of 42 wins and 6 losses, with 39 wins by knockout. On June 2010, Lopez and 12 other boxing personalities were inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.