On the eve of a fight in March, 1982, Bobby Chacon became a single dad to three children, ages 11, 8, and 6.
Following two devastating losses, Chacon’s wife, Valorie, begged him to quit boxing. Her pleas were ignored. Subsequently, she killed herself with a rifle at the family’s home in the small town of Oroville in Northern California.
The following night, Chacon fought for $6,000. He dedicated the fight to his late wife, Valorie.
Months after winning that fight on the most difficult night of his life, Bobby Chacon faced-off against Rafael “Bazooka” Limon in a 15-round bout for the Super Featherweight title at Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento. Chacon defeated Limon in front of a national audience on the premier sports program of the time: ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” The Ring magazine honored it as “Fight of the Year.” At the time, Limon was 50-1-2; Chacon was 50-6-1. Chacon earned $600,000.
I watched the fight at home with my dad, and if not for the fight I witnessed between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, it would have been the most exciting fight I had ever seen.
A few weeks after regaining the championship, my dad traveled to Oroville to interview Bobby Chacon. Before he left our house to do the interview, I asked him for two things: first, to find out if we were related to Bobby (we weren’t); and second, to ask Bobby to sign a boxing-glove key chain that I bought at Thrifty. (I used to collect key chains at that time.) My dad brought home a few autographed photos, my key chain, and this impression, “Mijo, I’ve never in my life seen anyone hit a bag as hard as Chacon. Until you see a prizefighter hit a bag in person, there is no way to appreciate it.”
In a career that spanned 16 years, Chacon was 59-7-1, had two “Fights of the Year,” named “Comeback Fighter of the Year,” and gained and lost and gained world titles. He was a quintessential fighter: humble, tough, resilient and a consummate professional. He was named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.
His post-career was replete with excess, loss, and an armada of challenges. His money disappeared, he lost a fleet of Rolls Royces, a horse ranch, and a number of investment properties. He also suffered from early onset dementia (commonplace among boxers), and most tragically, his son, Bobby Jr., was murdered in a gang-related incident in 1991 in the parking lot of a department store in Panorama City.
By 2000, Chacon was living in poverty and collecting cans to make ends meet.
I didn’t know Bobby died until last night, when I watched HBO’s Real Sports’ recap of 2016. He was included in the memorial at the end of the show.
The last time I saw him interviewed, he was asked about his predicament. He said, “It’s [always] been a fight to live.”
Like many fighters, Chacon had trouble quitting the sport he loved. After his last championship bout, he said, “This is dedicated to my wife. She couldn’t wait for me.”
In September of last year, her wait, and his fight, were finally over.
RIP Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon.