Bobby Chacon, a San Fernando Valley boxer who won world titles in two weight classes and was involved in a pair of fights regarded as among the best of the mid-1980s, died Wednesday at age 64.
Chacon, who had long suffered from the effects of brain damage, fell and struck his head in a Hemet care facility early Wednesday morning and succumbed to his injuries, said Ricky Farris, president of the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame.
“One of the most exciting fighters in the history of the West Coast, an amazing blood-and-guts brawler who took on the best fighters in three divisions,” Farris said of Chacon, who will be inducted into the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame on Sept. 25..
Chacon was born Nov. 28, 1951, in Sylmar and trained in Pacoima. A San Fernando High graduate and onetime liberal-arts student at Cal State Northridge, Chacon was nicknamed “Schoolboy” by veteran boxing publicist Bill Caplan.
The fighter’s legend began rising under taskmaster trainer Joe Ponce during a 19-0 run of bouts mostly at the Forum that netted him a shot against Mexican legend and former bantamweight champion Ruben Olivares in 1973.
Chacon lost that bout, but followed with four technical knockout victories to inspire a fierce Southland cry for a showdown with gifted, young Los Angeles fighter Danny “Little Red” Lopez.
“People were driving me nuts wanting to see that fight,” said Don Chargin, former matchmaker at the Olympic Auditorium.
“If we could’ve waited six more months, we could’ve drawn 45,000 to the Coliseum. “But there was too much pressure on us, so we made it early, and we moved it to the Sports Arena.”’
Before a sold-out crowd on May 24, 1974, Chacon beat the future long-running featherweight champion Lopez by ninth-round TKO.
“Bobby gave him a boxing clinic,” Caplan said.
A year later, Chacon won the featherweight belt at the Olympic.
Chacon avenged the loss of his belt and a second defeat to Olivares by winning their 1977 meeting at the Forum, setting up a remarkable run of bouts that included a 1979 draw with Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, a super-featherweight title loss that year to Alexis Arguello and a super-featherweight title defeat in 1981 to Cornelius Boza-Edwards.
“It was a thrill, breathtaking, to watch him perform,” former Forum boxing publicist John Beyrooty said. “At his peak, he was the most talented, exciting, popular fighter there was. A complete warrior. A legend, because of his enthusiasm to fight and never say die.”
After getting dropped twice, Chacon rallied to edge Limon for the super-featherweight title in a 1982 bout that Ring magazine declared the fight of the year. Five months later, he knocked down Boza-Edwards three times en route to a unanimous decision in what Ring declared 1983’s fight of the year.
“Bobby was cut, but they never stopped and he won it,” Beyrooty said. “Tremendously gutsy.”
But success and the fights began exacting a heavy toll on Chacon, damage seen by his then-wife, Valorie.
“He went from being one of the cleverest boxers you’ve ever seen to just wanting to go toe to toe,” Chargin said. “Brutal wars. The fans were always enjoying it.
“I guess she wasn’t.”
As a Sacramento fight in March 1982 loomed, Farris recalls Chacon had been “living the life, running around. Valorie loved him. She begged him to quit. He wouldn’t do it.”
Valorie committed suicide a few days before Chacon had a fight.
Chargin recalled being ordered by Chacon to keep the fight on the schedule.
“He insisted that was the only way he could get his mind right,” Chargin said.
Said Farris: “It broke his heart. In 2012, even though he was in a bad place [mentally], I told him it was the 30-year anniversary of that fight coming up and he just blurted out the exact date [March 15].”
Caplan recalls seeing Chacon at a meeting in Phoenix around that time and was left saddened and shocked.
“He was the youngest guy I’d ever seen with pugilistic dementia,” Caplan said. “Always happy, but he’d always need help once he was done fighting.”
Chacon closed his career with seven consecutive victories, including a 1985 triumph over Manny Pacquiao’s current trainer, Freddie Roach. Farris said athletic commission scrutiny clinched Chacon’s retirement in 1988.
He was 59-7-1 with 47 knockout victories and five knockout losses.
Chargin said he was upset hearing Chacon slurring his words so badly at his International Boxing Hall of Fame induction in 2005. The Hall of Fame lowered its flags to half-staff upon hearing news of Chacon’s death.
Chacon’s sister, Dolores Banegas, said she is uncertain if the family will donate Chacon’s brain for study of the disease CTE, which Farris said he highly suspects Chacon struggled through.
“It’s hard to know exactly what CTE does, but the protein eats away at the brain and we know it wasn’t a pleasant life for about the last 25 years for Bobby,” Farris said.
In addition to three ex-wives, Chacon is survived by his son Jamie Chacon, daughters Donna and Alexis Chacon. mother Gloria Banegas, stepfather John Banegas, and several siblings. Chacon’s son, Bobby Jr., died in 1995.
“He’s not suffering anymore,” stepsister Dolores Banegas said.