By: Sean Crose
He was throwing punches, quick punches, in all varieties. Even when he was going backwards, he was landing the harder, more accurate shots. John Bustos tried to work the body, but his own punches were ineffective. By the end of the second round, it was clear that Emilio Sanchez, the 23 year old super bantamweight from Los Angeles, was the stronger, sharper fighter of the two. Bustos was game and extremely brave, but the fight wouldn’t see the final bell. The referee stopped things in the eighth and final round. Those who watched the ESPN card live as it aired that night in 2017 likely walked away thinking they had just seen a fighter worth watching in Sanchez.
Three years later, Golden Boy Promotions is ready for the now 18-1 Sanchez to make his move among the featherweight division’s bigger names. Xu Can, the WBA World Featherweight Champion, is a real possibility. “I just want to get in the ring as soon as possible,” Sanchez tells me over the phone. “I’m in shape. I just can’t wait to get back in.” With the likes of the Xu Can on the horizon, it’s hard to fault him for wanting to return to business ASAP. Unfortunately, however, COVID-19 has put the sport of boxing, as well as virtually the entire world, on hold.
“I do my roadwork in the morning,” Sanchez says of life under self quarantine, “come back at around ten or eleven. I have a bag at the house and (I) start hitting it.” Good enough to keep in shape, no doubt, but, like most everyone, the California native longs for a return to normality. “I’m missing the gym,” he says. Sadly, the gym, as well as Xu Can and all other fighters, will have to wait – at least for the time being. Not that it will dull Sanchez’ drive. “Right now,” he says, “I’m just focusing on the sport.”
Being something of a problem child as a youth, Sanchez found himself being introduced to boxing courtesy of his parents. “My parents put me in the boxing gym,” he says. “I fell in love with it.” Like countless other kids over time, Sanchez found a new direction to take once he discovered the sweet science. “I was kind of a troublemaker,” he tells me of his life before boxing. The sweet science, however, put an end to the wayward behavior. “It was the opposite of football,” he says. “I would want to go to the boxing gym.”
And now the man is on the cusp of creating a legacy in the sport he’s dedicated his life to. “This,” he says, “is what I do.”