On Saturday, Oct. 26, Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez will be in the identical situation he expected 20 weeks earlier: In the ring with Adeilson Dos Santos at the Reno Sparks Convention Center.
Sanchez’s original plans changed when he accepted the surprise opportunity to box for a world title in just his 15th professional bout. A courageous effort resulted in a unanimous decision loss in Reno on June 8 to WBO champion Oscar Valdez, who made his sixth title defense as featherweight. Now, Valdez is moving up in weight class and Sanchez is heading back to Reno.
The 24-year-old Sanchez, who has a record of 14-1 with seven knockout wins, will face 28-year old Dos Santos (19-6, 15 KOs) of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on the undercard of another WBO featherweight title fight. In the main event, Shakur Stevenson and Joet Gonzalez will battle for the vacated title.
“I am happy to be back in Reno,” Sanchez told Tahoe Onstage. “I loved it out there. They treated me good.”
Boxing fans from the Biggest Little City appreciated Sanchez’s valiant effort against the undefeated and more experienced Valdez. Sanchez took the fight on four-weeks’ notice after Valdez’s initial opponent bowed out.
“We knew it was sort of a short notice for a world title and I had never fought 12 rounds,” Sanchez said. “But we saw footage of him and we knew we had a chance to beat him. We just came up a little short. There was some stuff we should have worked on, but it was a great learning experience.”
Sanchez and his brothers Alan and Jose Luis Jr. turned pro when each reached the age of 18. As boys, they started competing in Taekwondo, then kickboxing before settling on boxing. Father Jose Luis Sanchez converted a bedroom into a gym before building a shed that housed a boxing ring in the backyard. A year and a half ago, they built an entire gym that is shared by the Sanchezes and several neighborhood kids.
Jose Luis Sanchez Jr. is a welterweight with a 10-1 record. His next fight will be Nov. 11 in hometown Albuquerque.
Alan, the eldest brother, died in a traffic accident four years ago. He had five pro bouts. His boxing nickname was “El Alacran,” named for the scorpion that in prevalent in his father’s native state, Durango, Mexico.
Ever since his brother’s death, Jason Sanchez has been called “El Alacrancito” (The Tiny Scorpion) and he has a scorpion tattoo on his shoulder in honor of his brother. He also enters the ring for each fight to the tune of what was his brother’s entrance song, “Durango, Durango.”
El Alacrancito’s career accelerated in 2018 after he decisioned German Meraz, a veteran boxer with 116 career fights. Sanchez was the underdog in October 2018 when he fought undefeated Jean Carlos Rivera in Panama City.
“We knew he was a strong kid,” Sanchez said. “He had 10 knockouts out of his 15 wins. So we just fought him smart and got the victory. Our team knew … a lot of promoters (would attend the fight). I knew If I did good, I might catch the eye of someone.”
Sure enough, Top Rank Boxing signed Sanchez, who won his first fight with the promoters with a one-punch, second-round knockout of Daniel Olea.
Dos Santos would have been next, but instead it was Valdez in Reno for the world title.
The champion scored a flash knockdown early in the bout and built a lead on the judges’ scorecards. His fast hands consistently found openings through the challenger’s defense. But Sanchez never stopped moving forward and landed blows throughout the bout. Sanchez arguably won more than a few rounds.
Sanchez knew he needed a knockout in the 12th round.
“My corner told me to give it all I’ve got,” said Sanchez, who backed the champ into the ropes with a furious barrage of blows. But he began to tire, Valdez rallied. The boxers went toe-to-toe as the near-sellout crowd went nuts. Both appeared exhausted as the final bell rang.
“He said, ‘Dang, you hit really hard,’” Sanchez said. “I told him thank you and we shook hands and took a picture.”
A week later, Sanchez posed for pictures at his wedding. Swelling on his face had gone down, but he still had a cut under his left eye.
The purse from title fight allows Sanchez to be a full-time boxer, husband and father.
“We’ve been working hard and working smart, correcting our mistakes,” Sanchez said. “(Valdez) was catching me with the jab and the hook, so we’ve been working on our slipping and countering the jabs and slipping the hooks and changing our angles.”
For his return fight in Reno, Sanchez will face an older, more experienced fighter in Dos Santos. The Brazilian fighter began a promising career as a super bantamweight (122 pounds). He won his first 14 bouts but has lost his last three. This will be Dos Santos’ first fight of 2019.
“He likes to fight on the inside and let his punches go,” Sanchez said. He switches to southpaw every once in a while. I don’t think he has much power, but he is pretty fast.”
A win by Sanchez would put him back on a title track – perhaps an unexpected one.
“I make 126 pretty easy so we are thinking about going down to 122,” he said.
— Tim Parsons