I got exactly less than 1 month left until my 26th birthday February 8. Hopefully I live to see it. I really have been getting a lot of support with kind words and prayers from all over the world with this battle with cancer. Thank you and I will continue to fight for us!!!!
The above quote was from light middleweight prospect Omar Henry on January 9, 2013, less than a month before his 26th birthday. And less than a month later, far too soon, he would succumb to gall bladder cancer on February 1, 2013.
Whether or not the pundits considered Henry a viable prospect in the Science, doesn't negate the fact that he was still in his prospective years in the sport of life, and questions now applied to his combined prospective status’ are now purely hypothetical, and that is sorrowful.
Though he may represent the latest line to the ledger of those lost too early in boxing, he is now a member of an unfortunate list of those fighters whose careers were cut short, prior to their prime years of promise in and out of the ring.
Along with Henry, here are several boxers whose promising careers were cut too short.
While Henry may have amassed fewer fights than others on the list, his star was every bit as much on the ascent at the innocent age of 25 years old.
As an amateur, Henry put in work to the tune of 65 fights, winning 60 of them, and was a quarter-finalist in the 2007 National Golden Gloves, as well as winning the Texas Golden Gloves four times.
His professional record of 12-0-1, included nine wins via knockout, eight of which came in the first round. As a result of his stylistic similarities with Miguel Cotto, even being referred to as a “Cotto clone,” Henry was prompted by both Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. to serve as a sparring partner in their preparation to face Cotto.
It was in one of his pre-fight workouts, prior to a headlining gig of the Don King promoted Showtime ShoBox in November 2012, when Henry said that he “went for a run and began to experience strong pains.” What doctors initially diagnosed as “gall stones and an enlarged liver,” morphed into the Stage Four Gall Bladder Cancer that prematurely ended his life.
Sanchez began his professional career on May 4, 1975, with a knockout win over Al Gardeno, in Veracruz, Mexico, at the tender age of 16. Following that fight, the featherweight from Tianguistenco, Mexico, went on to win his next 17 fights, all but one coming via knockout, before acquiring the one and only loss of his professional career. More specifically, a split decision loss to Antonio Becerra, for the vacant Mexican bantamweight title, in a fight that went the distance.
Following the loss, Sanchez went on to win his next 15 fights, setting up a title bout with WBC Featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez, on February 2, 1980, in Phoenix, Arizona. Sanchez won the title that night via a 13th round TKO. Chava went on to defend his title on nine separate occasions after that win, which included a rematch win over Lopez, as well as six straight wins over top-ten contenders.
The most sparkling win of his title run and probably his career came on August 21, 1981, in his matchup against undefeated WBC junior featherweight champion, Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez. In what was labeled “The Battle of the Little Giants,” Sanchez, who was an underdog, managed to defeat Gomez, who had won all 32 of his fights via knockout, with a TKO in the eighth round of a scheduled 15 rounder.
A little less than a year later, on August 12, 1982, Salvador “Chava” Sanchez died in a car accident, in which he was trying to pass one truck causing him to collide head on with another oncoming truck. He left behind a wife and two sons, as well as thousands of fans, many of whom attended his funeral in Mexico.
In 1991, Sanchez was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and in 1999, the Associated Press named him the third greatest featherweight of the 20th Century.
The similarities between the professional lives and deaths of Salvador "Chava" Sanchez and Japanese flyweight, Masao Ohba are eerily similar, despite the geographical ocean of separation between them.
Both fighters started their professional careers as teenagers, Sanchez at 16 and Ohba at 17, both fought for and won their first world titles at the age of 21 and both died in car accidents at the age of 23.
During his career, Ohba compiled a record of 35-2-1 fighting almost exclusively in Japan, and winning his first world title by defeating then WBA World flyweight title holder Berkrerk Chartvanchai with a 13th round knockout. He made five successful defenses of his title, including in the last fight of his life, defeating credible veteran Chartchai Chionoi with a 12th round knockout, despite himself being knocked out in the first round and injuring his ankle.
Ohba died on January 24, 1973, while driving on an expressway in Tokyo. Upon his death he was deemed “The Eternal Champion,” as a result of dying a world champion, and being undefeated in world title bouts.
The tumult of Edwin “El Inca” Valero’s life and death was absent from his in-the-ring perfection as a master craftsman who carved out an unblemished record of 27 wins in as many chances.
Even prior to turning professional in 2001, the Venezuelan native was involved in a motorcycle accident, which because he was not wearing a helmet, caused him to fracture his skull and required a blood clot to be removed through surgery.
Despite being cleared to fight, “supposedly” by his Venezuelan physician, and winning his first 11 pro fights via first round knockouts, as a result of failing an MRI in 2004, in New York, Valero was denied a license and disallowed from fighting in the states.
Valero would go on to set the record for most consecutive wins via first round knockout, doing it 18 times in his first 18 fights as a super featherweight. The previous mark of 16 wins by first round knockout, was set by a fighter named Young Otto, a century previous to Valero, in 1906.
In August of 2006, at the age of 24, Valero won the WBA World Super featherweight title, defeating Vincente Mosquera in Panama City, Panama, via a 10th round TKO. He went on to defend the title on four occasions, at which point he moved up to lightweight to claim the WBC belt, in a second round TKO of Antonio Pitalua.
It was after what would be his last fight, a win over Antonio DeMarco in February of 2010, that Valero’s in-the-ring proclivity for violence began to manifest itself outside of the ring.
In March of 2010, he was accused of assault against his wife, in which she had to be treated in the hospital for cracked ribs and a punctured lung. At this point, despite being cleared of charges, Valero was sent to a treatment facility for substance abuse issues as well as anger management counseling.
However, the severely swirling downturn of Valero’s life reached its endpoint, after being held in custody for the killing of his wife in April of 2010, he committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell.
Tyrone Everett was a southpaw super featherweight from the boxer rich city of Philadelphia who even, despite his truncated career, is still considered among the finest fighters produced by the city. His ultimate demise was also one of the more violent and bizarre endings to the life of a boxer in the sport’s history.
The one fight in his career that caused the most controversy also happened to be the one loss of his career, to Puerto Rican born Alfredo “El Salsero” Escalera, for the WBC Super featherweight title in November of 1976, at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
The fight went the full 15 rounds, and everyone from the referee to those on press row, including those from the Associated Press and United Press International had Everett clearly beating Escalera.
Unfortunately, the only men who had the ability to influence the decision, Judges Ismael W. Fernandez and Lou Tress, each had Escalera winning the fight on points. The decision was considered to be so appalling, that The Ring Magazine included the decision in a list it published of the top five worst robberies ever.
Following that fight, Everett fought and won two more times, while simultaneously, a rematch was in the works with Escalera. However, tragically, 10 days after Everett’s last fight, he was shot dead in the head and died in his girlfriend's home. He was only 24 years old.