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Sandoval Listed as Stable After KO by Canizales

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Times Staff Writer

Richie Sandoval’s reign as World Boxing Assn. bantamweight champion came to an abrupt and startling end Monday night when he was knocked out by challenger Gaby Canizales.

It took Sandoval almost a quarter of an hour to regain consciousness after the top-ranked Canizales knocked him out in the seventh round. The knockdown, one of five that Canizales scored in the bout, resulted in Sandoval being taken to nearby Valley Medical Center, where he was listed in “stable” condition late Monday.

The battering that Canizales, 116 1/2, administered was thorough. Canizales (33-2, with 26 KOs) dropped an obviously slowed Sandoval, 117 3/4, immediately in the first round, and then again in the fifth before he unloaded on the Pomona native in the seventh, flooring him three times.

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Sandoval hadn’t made the 118-pound weight limit since Dec. 15, 1984, his last title defense, and had weighed as much as 127 1/2 as recently as February when he made a nontitle fight at Cal Poly Pomona. His ability to make the weight was increasingly suspect, and he was believed to have lost as many as 10 pounds in the last week in order to do so.

Sandoval had won his title on April 7, 1984, in a stunning upset of Jeff Chandler, the man who had decisioned Canizales in a title try the year before. But his reign has been unspectacular and unprofitable. He had just two title defenses and, because no promoter deemed his mandatory defense against Canizales worth much, stood idle much of the time. Since December, 1984, his only work has been four nontitle fights.

The sometime art student at Mount San Antonio College was paid just $37,500 to be on the undercard of the Marvelous Marvin Johnson-John Mugabi and Thomas Hearns-James Shuler title fights. Canizales, as challenger, was paid just $12,500.

Sandoval, 25, who suffered his first defeat in 30 fights, had expected to earn much more once he got past this title defense, and such opponents as former bantamweight Albert Davila were being mentioned.

But Canizales, who looks like a pocket Roberto Duran with his dark looks and unshaven face, attacked quickly, looping his right hand over Sandoval’s jab. In the first round, he decked Sandoval, who got up quickly but tottered a bit.

Canizales, of Laredo, Tex., continued to score on Sandoval but Sandoval, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, began to show his class in the fourth round when his jab started working.

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But then in the fifth, Canizales, looking much stronger, backed Sandoval into the ropes, turned him around, and with a left uppercut, sent Sandoval reeling backward across the ring into the turnbuckle. Sandoval caught himself against the ropes but got the eight-count from referee Carlos Padilla.

In the earlier rounds, Canizales simply could not finish Sandoval, and it appeared he would have no better luck in the fifth. Canizales backed him into the ropes again and was damaging Sandoval when Sandoval lashed out with a right hand that stiffened Canizales like an electrical charge. It backed the challenger away and kept the fight going longer than it might otherwise have done.

Canizales, bleeding from the corner of his right eye, then opened the seventh round with two straight knockdowns. Sandoval, though in rough straits, continued to fight back until Canizales hit him with a right hand, flush, that sent him down.

Ringside physicians immediately inserted a respirator in Sandoval’s clenched mouth and Dr. Donald Romeo called for paramedics and neurosurgeon Dr. Kazem Fathie, who escorted Sandoval, still unconscious to the hospital. Romeo said Sandoval was suffering a seizure at the time.

Later in the evening, Kazem said Sandoval had undergone two CAT scans and was up and about, although he was “lethargic and sleepy and did not know where he was.” The CAT scans showed no alarming abnormalities, Kazem said, except for “a very mild contusion of the brain, nothing that looked like it required surgery.”

Kazem said that Sandoval was out for about 14 minutes and had even stopped breathing for about a minute to a minute and a half, but “that was not a significant amount of time for the brain.”

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Romeo said Sandoval would remain hospitalized overnight for another brain scan.

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