Former two-division world champion and Hall of Famer Bobby Chacon, one of the most exciting and popular fighters of his time, died Wednesday -- 42 years to the day after he won his first world title. He was 64.
Chacon, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, had suffered from pugilistic dementia for years, a result of the many brutal fights he participated in during his professional career, which spanned from 1972 to 1988. He died in Lake Elsinore, California, under hospice care while surrounded by family members.
Born Nov. 28, 1951 in Sylmar, California, Chacon (59-7-1, 47 KOs), who was nicknamed "Schoolboy" for his youthful, good looks and the fact he was a student for a time at Cal State Northridge, was a popular ticket seller in Southern California, and it's no wonder given the ferocity of so many of his fights.
"With profound sadness, I have learned that our dear champion Bobby Chacon passed away this morning," said WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman. "May God have him now. RIP."
Chacon's first big win came by ninth-round knockout against Danny "Little Red" Lopez, another Southern California star, in May 1974. That bout helped launch Chacon, who knocked out 23 of his first 25 opponents.
In the fight after beating Lopez, Chacon stopped Alfredo Marcano in the ninth round on Sept. 7, 1974, at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles to win the vacant WBC featherweight title.
He made one successful defense, knocking out Jesus Estrada in the second round in March 1975 and then lost the belt by second-round knockout to fellow Hall of Famer Ruben Olivares, who had handed him his first career defeat via ninth-round knockout in 1973. Chacon beat Olivares by a 10-round unanimous decision in their third fight in 1977.
In 1979, Chacon had another shot at a world title but was stopped by then-WBC junior lightweight champion Alexis Arguello, also a Hall of Famer, in the seventh round. In 1981, Chacon challenged Cornelius Boza-Edwards for the same belt and was stopped in the 13th round of their epic first fight. Chacon won their 1983 rematch by unanimous decision in the Ring Magazine fight of the year.
Finally, on Dec. 11, 1982, in his third try at the same 130-pound title, Chacon won a 15-round decision against rival Rafael "Bazooka" Limon -- they fought four times with Chacon getting the edge 2-1-1 in memorable battles -- in another Ring Magazine fight of the year.
In 1984, Chacon moved up to lightweight to challenge Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, also a Hall of Famer, for his title but got knocked out in the third round in what would be his final title bout. The fight was immortalized in the 1987 Warren Zevon song "Boom Boom Mancini."
Chacon would then win his final seven fights, including a decision against Freddie Roach, a journeyman fighter who went on to a Hall of Fame career as an all-time great trainer.
"One of the West Coast's top ring attractions, with his all-action, aggressive ring style, Bobby Chacon was a true fan favorite," said Hall of Fame executive director Edward Brophy. "The Hall of Fame joins the worldwide boxing community in mourning his passing and offer our condolences to his family."
As compelling as Chacon was to watch in the ring, his personal life added to the drama. He had his share of troubles due to a well-known penchant for partying, which led to alcohol and drug addiction and legal difficulties. He also was married four times with his first wife, Valerie, who had begged him to quit fighting, committing suicide in March 1982. Her death came the night before he was scheduled to fight. Chacon went through with the bout, dedicated it to her memory and knocked out Salvador Ugalde in the third round.
Chacon is survived by son Jamie, daughters Donna and Alexis, mother Gloria Banegas and stepfather John Banegas. Another son, Bobby Jr., died in 1995.