Regarded as one of the most exciting fighters of his generation, Bobby Chacon crafted a career-high in melodrama and a life high in tragedy.
Encouraged to begin boxing professionally by his wife Valerie, Chacon quickly rose up under the direction of trainer-manager Joe Ponce. He soon became one of the most popular fighters in Southern California. After a knockout loss to Ruben Olivares, his fight with fellow fan-favorite Danny Lopez quickly pushed him back into the world title picture. After defeating Alfredo Marcano for the WBC featherweight title, Chacon began to indulge in the wild lifestyle that often short-circuited both his boxing career and personal life.
Before his title defense and rematch with Olivares in 1975, Chacon had to lose over ten pounds and was easily dispatched. He seemed on the road to being, in the words of Richard Hoffer, another one of boxing's "spent shells." There was a loss to future rival Rafael Limon, and a decision win over a faded Olivares. When he managed to gain a lead against Alexis Arguello, only to be stopped on cuts, it seemed, at least to the press, to be a momentary flashback from an aging fighter.
Chacon's fights rapidly became brutal affairs. His third fight with Limon in 1980 was a war, with Chacon bleeding badly and taking a great deal of punishment. Tremendous animosity had developed between the two, following the technical draw Limon had seemed to escape with in their second fight due to a clash of heads.
In 1981 he fought his first fight with Cornelius Boza Edwards for the WBC super featherweight title. Although he had many good moments, he ultimately succumbed and took a terrible beating.
Wife Valerie Chacon was quickly becoming distressed by Bobby's boxing career. Before his fight with Salvador Ugalde, she begged him to retire. That same night, she committed suicide. Deciding to continue on, Bobby Chacon went out and, in his words, tried to kill Ugalde (Wiley, 2000.)
Upon this backdrop of tragedy there was played one of the greatest dramas in the history of the ring: Chacon's fourth fight with Limon. Contested in 1982 for the WBC super featherweight title, it was a battle that words can do little to describe. Both fighters found reservoirs of stamina and courage that seemed superhuman. Perhaps drawing on their hatred of each other, they fought back against truly incredible punishment. Scoring a knockdown in the final seconds, Chacon was a champion again.
What is even more astounding is that he followed it up with a fight almost as dramatic: his rematch with Cornelius Boza-Edwards. Staged in 1983, it was a singularly compelling event. Chacon, bleeding from almost the first minute, rallied back in the late rounds to pull out a unanimous decision. In a fight that commentators Marv Albert and Ferdie Pacheco were calling to be stopped on the account of his own safety, Chacon retained his title.
He was soon stripped of the title, however. The WBC had mandated that Chacon fight the number two contender, Hector Camacho, even though Boza-Edwards was technically the number one contender. Offered more money to fight Boza-Edwards, Chacon made the fiscally-sound choice and lost his title with a victory. This was Chacon's last fight at the pinnacle of the sport. His career's denoument would be filled with terrific action fights, legal problems (such as spousal abuse), and the onset of dementia pugilistica.
Matched with Ray Mancini in 1984, he was quickly destroyed in frightening fashion. Battles against Freddie Roach, Arturo Frias and Davey Montana were crowd-pleasing brawls, but it was clear that Chacon was paying a high price for his long career. Following his fight with Rafael Solis in 1985, he showed badly slurred speech in his post-fight interview, and his boxing career was soon over.
As the years passed, Chacon's health continued to deteriorate. He would disappear for periods at a time. He began to use crack cocaine. In the 1990s, HBO's Real Sports program found him searching for aluminum cans to make end's meet.
Presently, Chacon is monitored by a nurse employed by the state of California. His considerable fortune is gone. It is a sad story in a life defined by them. But Bobby still receives the affection of fans whenever he attends a fight or a benefit. They will never forget the savage art he produced.
Reference: Serenity: A Boxing Memoir, Ralph Wiley, 2000.
- Initially denied an amateur boxing license because of an investigation into his use of narcotics.
- Became a Diamond Belt Champion in December 1971 & 1972, and fought in the National Golden Gloves Tournament in 1971 (New Orleans) and 1972 (Minneapolis).
- Nicknamed "Schoolboy" because he turned pro while attending California State University at Northridge, CA, USA.
- Many of his bouts in his rise to fame were promoted by Babe Griffin.
Awards & Recognitions
- Named The Ring magazine Comeback of the Year fighter for 1982.
- Named one of The Ring Magazine's 100 Greatest Punchers
- Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, June 2005.
| WBC Featherweight Champion
1974 Sep 7 – 1975 Jun 20
| WBC Super Featherweight Champion
1982 Dec 11 – 1983 Jun