Toe-to-Toe with Bobby Chacon

By George Thomas Clark on August 6, 2013
Toe-to-Toe with Bobby Chacon
People say quit, Bobby, you’re slurring your words. I am not, not much. And I don't care.

Ray Mancini beats me up and they stop it in the third round. I’m pretty frustrated but that’s no excuse. Neither are booze and meth…

You’ve got to be ready in the San Fernando Valley. People will test you, especially when you’re a little guy. At school and especially on the streets lots of punks come after me, and I kick the shit out of most. They can’t believe my punches. And, really, I’m surprised, too. I get so I enjoy being challenged. Why not? I’m not big enough for football or baseball.

My girlfriend Valerie and I love watching pros fight on TV. You can beat them, Bobby, she says. Those are big guys, I tell her. No, she says, look at their weight, about like yours. I figure I’ll try. I start working out in a guy’s garage and in local gyms and get my ass kicked at first. I lose twenty pounds and learn I’m a quick featherweight. My trainer Joe Ponce teaches me to move my head and dodge punches. And I’ve still got the power I had on the streets, knocking out a few amateurs. I know I’m ready to go pro but Joe makes me wait till I’m twenty. By then Val and I are married. 

I debut in 1972 and stop seventeen of my first nineteen opponents and am ready for Ruben Olivares, former bantamweight champion, who I already beat pretty good when I was his sparring partner. He doesn’t like training. He’s a partier. So am I, but I’m naturally bigger. I won’t make excuses. Olivares has more than seventy fights and he takes me to school, stops me in the ninth round. 

I don’t worry too much. I start knocking people out again. In May 1974 I take on undefeated Danny Lopez. All of L.A., and fans around the country and the world, are watching us. And they’re thrilled. It’s a war. Someone hits me, no matter how hard, I don’t back off, not much, not for long. I counterattack. I know I can take more than anyone. And I hit harder. Danny Lopez is a helluva fighter. The fans want blood, doesn’t matter whose. Finally, I knock Lopez down in the ninth and the referee stops the fight. Now I’m getting big-time coverage in L.A.

Everyone’s more excited that September when I stop Alfredo Marcano to win the world featherweight title. I’m the best in the world, man. I get so many invitations from incredible women who tell me I’m handsome and cool. I don’t go around saying that. I don’t have to. I still love Val but I’ve got to live like a champ. I drink quite a bit and sometimes do some other stuff too. I can work it off. Ask Jesus Estrada, the guy I knock out in round two of my first title defense. Now I’m going to get revenge against Ruben Olivares. 

Maybe I should be training harder in 1975. Some people tell me I’m getting a little fat. My inner circle, which keeps getting bigger and more loyal, tells critics to fuck off, Bobby’s the man. I’ll be alright. But, ten days before the fight, I shouldn’t be sixteen pounds overweight. I have to starve and sweat weight off and Olivares laughs at me at the weigh-in. Knowing I’m weak, he attacks and knocks me down twice in the second round and that’s it.

A few months later I lose a unanimous decision to Bazooka Limon and in 1976 a guy with a losing record decks me twice and busts me up. Val rushes into the dressing room and tells me and the press I should retire. I agree. I’m the one getting hit. I need some free time. Sure, plenty of women are around, and my buddies and I do some drinking and snorting. Everybody’s doing it. Okay, Val gets upset and leaves. She’s a beautiful girl and I love her but she’s home all the time and not doing anything but raising three kids and sometimes she bores me. 

She comes back to me, and I return to the ring and pound people. In 1977 I finally get another rematch with Ruben Olivares. This time I’m too strong and win a unanimous decision. I’ve earned another title shot but they jack me around till 1979 and match me with Alexis Arguello for the super featherweight title. I duck under his long arms and am beating him for five rounds but he busts my eye open in the sixth and next round his left hook rattles my head and makes me squat for an eight-count and soon the fight’s over.

Val insists I quit. I say yes. I say maybe. I say we’ll see. She thinks moving onto twenty acres near Oroville north of Sacramento will solve everything. Okay, let’s try. I’m a long way from L.A. but it’s still my brain and I want another shot at the super featherweight crown, this time against Cornelius Boza-Edwards in 1981. He’s a big dude for a hundred thirty pounds, believe me, but I’m not scared. I go after him. He’s not scared either and beats hell out of me. I’m through after thirteen rounds. 

When I get home Val’s on me again to quit. Sometimes I say I will but really know I won’t. I love to fight. It’s all I’ve ever done. Val needs to understand that instead of getting paranoid and depressed and arguing with me all the time and taking pills. I’m a fighter, okay. In February 1982 I’m in Sacramento for a bout and Val locks the bedroom door and tries to overdose. Her brother comes over and removes the door and gets her to the hospital on time. Val wakes up mad as hell to be alive and pulls tubes out of her arms and storms out of the hospital and runs away. We can’t find her for a month. Then they see her at the Sacramento airport. She’s confused, talking about guns.

I drive down and get her. She’s lost weight but still looks great. On the way home she knows I’m already preparing for another fight, in March. I tell her, yeah, I’m going to quit but I gotta win another title first. Day before fight I get the devastating call: Val’s shot herself. She’s gone. I race home and hold her. There’s nothing more I can do. I guess I never could do anything, even call a psychiatrist. I have a life outside the house. It’s a passion that pulls me back to Sacramento the next day to knock out Salvador Ugalde. Right away I beat two more guys. I gotta keep busy, keep living.

I find a new girlfriend, soon my wife, and in December 1982 get that title shot, against my old rival Bazooka Limon. In our three fights we each have a win and a draw. In this fourth bout I know my fans in Sacramento are worried when Bazooka forces me onto the ropes and pounds me. They’re figuring what many have said, he’s got great stamina and wears opponents down and he’s younger than Bobby, too. I answer with right hands to Bazooka’s face, backing him up. I wobble him in the ninth. His left cross decks me in the tenth and he punishes me in the eleventh. We simultaneously stagger each other in the thirteenth but he’s the one on rubbery legs. I have a new level of endurance and stun him in the fourteenth, so when he raises his arms in victory it’s meaningless. I’m the aggressor in the fifteenth, and late in the round I chase him and land a right and then another puts him on his back. He gets up but that knockdown gives me two points I need to win by close unanimous decision. Old Memorial Auditorium is a riot. So are living rooms around the country. People have seen a war, the fight of the year.

In May 1983 I have another fight of the year. That’s an honor but also means the boxers have kicked the crap out of each other. I floor Cornelius Boza-Edwards in the first and second rounds. He decks me in the third. He pounds me on the ropes. He cuts my eye. I look like I can’t survive. In the seventh the ring doctor threatens to stop the fight. He can’t stop it long as I fight and keep hitting Boza-Edwards with right hands. He’s getting tired. I can feel it. I see it. In the twelfth I flatten him again. He’s up but no longer dangerous. The title’s still mine.

And I want another one, the lightweight title of Ray Mancini. Everyone says Ray’s too big and strong. And you know what? They’re right. He beats me up and they stop it in the third round. I’m pretty frustrated but that’s no excuse. Neither are booze and meth. Maybe my second wife had something to do with it. Anyway, I slap her around pretty good. But I don’t use my fists. Never would. The judge gives me probation. 

I keep fighting and getting hit but hit back harder. In 1987 I go to jail a few months for a violating probation. An unknown guy also knocks me down three times before I stop him. People say quit, Bobby, you’re slurring your words. I am not, not much. And I don’t care. I don’t want to quit. I’d rather fight a guy who’s lost twice as many as he’s won. Okay, I’m done.

I’ve got other commitments, kids to raise, more women to marry, lots more drugs to take. I disappear into Arizona for about a month. Everyone’s worried.  Not me. When they find me they ask what have you been doing, Bobby? I laugh and say who the hell knows. 

I do know most of my friends have disappeared. I guess they liked the money more than me. Maybe they’re ashamed to hang out with a guy who lives in a flophouse and collects cans to recycle. It’s good work. I also train kids to box when I can. And my own kids are big now, the two who survived. My son was murdered a long time ago. I still miss him and Valerie, the best of four wives. When I was boxing I thought I was over her, but now I’m not. I’m thankful to be at the wedding of my daughter. Watch the video of me dancing. I still got rhythm. That’s what I know. Know what I forget? I forgot.

George Thomas Clark is the author of Uppercuts: Tales from the Ring, a collection of boxing stories available as an eBook at and other Digital Stores. His short story collection, The Bold Investor, is also available. See the author’s website at

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Bobby Chacon - Ruben Olivares I

Bobby Chacon vs. Danny Lopez - Real Sports

Bobby Chacon vs Cornelius Boza Edwards II - Fight of the Year 1983

Bobby Chacon - Prefight Special

Ray Mancini vs Bobby Chacon

Rafael Limon vs Bobby Chacon IV - Round 15

Champion Bobby Chacon Dancing!

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  1. Michael Hegan 11:57am, 08/07/2013

    George Thomas Clark….once again..puts forward a very ...very intriguing article…....about Bobby Chacon…..who virtually gave his life Boxing

  2. Michael Hegan 11:55am, 08/07/2013

    It was tie for last place/first place
    between Bobby Chacon…and Jerry Quarry…as to to who took the most damage in their brilliant careers’.....

    Bobby earned his dues…..took the blows….and kept on slugging.

    anybody got a problem with that…...I ask you much have you sent down the line to Bobby Chacon…..besides buying the fights….and/or watching it live on TV….......Bobby Chacon was one of the tufstfkrs who ever strapped ‘m up…....ditto for Quarry ‘s/////

    I’m not very comfortable with that era of Boxing…...Miracle Matthew…..Mike Weaver..Danny Lopez..and a bunch of other tuff fkrs…who took far too much punishment….in order to just wear the guy down….and then come in and take away his soul////body attack… Not exactly a new strategy….......see Jack Dempsey vs either of his matches with Gene Tunney…...or Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston…...Ali vs Foreman…..Frazier vs Ali….I…..(no man alive could have beaten Frazier that night…...apologies to the original author)

    A lot of punishment came to top league fighters an era that could well have determined who should be able to fight ....and who should not ........‘fight on’

  3. Michael Hegan 11:40am, 08/07/2013

    ‘she’s home all the time…..raising three kids…..and she bores me….’...... I know that is a synopsis….but it sure shows me where this guy’s head is…...

    self smooothing…....and ‘not give a rip about local fans’.....

    the kid is rolling himself in the flag of…..fku.dontgivashit….dot com

    ...and you wonder why it is hard to get Boxing…into public school or other mainstream programs

    ...say an isolated
    amateur program wanted to get a local active program…....say Knights of Columbus…rotary…local legion…PAL program..

    >>>>>........................or any number of other avenues of the public funds available…to Sports like Boxing…..

    Pro Boxing is the worst poison to the ‘water bottles’ of amateur Boxing..

    Hard to get sponsors of local amateur clubs…..when so much fecal material continues to hit the circular rotating cooling device

  4. Chuck H. 07:08pm, 08/06/2013

    Maybe the greatest performance ever at the Spectrum was Bobby outclassing hard punching Augie Pantellas. Chacon gave an almost perfect exhibition of boxing and punching artistry . He was flawless that evening, I will never forget it.

  5. Pete The Sneak 12:29pm, 08/06/2013

    Great write up GTC on one of my all time faves, Bobby Chacon. One of the guys whose performances truly got me into the sport of Boxing. His fights with Bazooka Limon (among many) were classics. The true description of championship heart and grit inside the ring. Outside, like many others before and after him, he had his issues. Still, wonderful to watch. And the fact that our boy Irish Frankie went the distance with Bobby, tells you he (Irish) is not just about Beamish Stout, Tullamore Dew and Voluptuous actresses of yore…Peace.

  6. Ted 11:28am, 08/06/2013

    Jack thanks for the prop even if I didn’t write this gem. I’ll take whatever I can get.

  7. Ted 11:26am, 08/06/2013

    Welcome to GTC

  8. Jack 10:51am, 08/06/2013

    This is one the best Boxing websites on the WEB for my money!!!!!

  9. George Thomas Clark 10:49am, 08/06/2013

    Let’s here acknowledge that’s perceptive blogger, Irish Frankie Crawford, was one of only two of Chacon’s first 19 opponents to go the distance.

  10. Jack 10:45am, 08/06/2013

    Tom, thanx for the memories. I’m glad to see Bobby still alive and kicking. I always rooted for him except when he fought a friend of mine, Augie Pantellas in the Spectrum ( Philly ) back in 1978. Augie lost by 7 round TKO. They both had the same personal demons, unfortunately. Bobby was always in an exciting fight. He had all the “Heart” in the world, not to mention “Pop” in his punches. Great article!!!!!!

  11. George Thomas Clark 09:02am, 08/06/2013

    Ted, that photo’s 10 years old.  I’ll send Robert an update.  I’ll be 61 in October.

  12. Ted 08:55am, 08/06/2013

    GTC, judging from your photo, you don’t appear to be very old. How old are you? You have a nice grasp of history.

    Here is my email in case you choose to answer:

    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

  13. George Thomas Clark 08:40am, 08/06/2013

    Thanks, Ted…. And you’re right about Bobby after the drubbing by Mancini, he was 7-0…

  14. Ted 05:41am, 08/06/2013

    And even after Mancini, I think he won his last 7 fights against solid opposition.

  15. Ted 05:39am, 08/06/2013

    By the way GTC, you outdid yourself with this one. It’s a real gem; a real compelling piece that grabs you and doesn’t let go until the ending.


  16. Ted 05:37am, 08/06/2013

    Ah, one of my very favorites of all time. This guy was what a warrior was all about. He was something else.

    And few ever participated in so many legendary fights. Keep ‘em coming Tom.

  17. peter 04:36am, 08/06/2013

    I wish I hadn’t watched that video-clip of Chacon dancing.

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