Rest in Eternal Peace Bobby Chacon — You’re home now, my Brother

A tribute by: Armando Vazquez                                                   

 Bobby Chacon,

Bobby Chacon,

My compadre, the great boxer Bobby Chacon, died Wednesday, September 7, 2016 according to news reports. We had long lost touch with one another. At the end he suffered from acute boxers dementia and fought addiction most of his adult life. This brother is next to his beloved Val and his oldest son.

I first came to know Bobby at McClay Junior High School in Pacoima, California. Those school days were gritty, if you didn’t stand your ground you got your ass beat. No one ever punked Bobby! If you messed with him, you were in for the fight of your life.  He hated to lose — anything.

But you know the insane thing is that Bobby was warm, generous and often sweet like pan dulce.  He could disarm you with his smile. But like so many great athletes, Bobby had a dark side that he desperately tried often in vain to keep in check. Bobby hardly knew his biological father; the ghost of that father figure haunted Bobby. As 12 year old kids literally fighting our way through the angst of adolescence, poverty, gangs and a most uncertain future, I marvel at how mature this brother was for his age. He always had money in his pocket. He was treated as an equal by his many adult uncles and homies who hung out at his mother’s house. He did not suffer fools, but when anyone was in true need Bobby was always there.

At McClay I was the best athlete in school. I was well on my way to becoming the future shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bobby was not the best baseball player but he had guts, and unrelenting work ethic that belied his age;  and of course he didn’t back down from anyone. Bobby was always the littlest guy on the team, but he played catcher due to his toughness. Basketball, football, track he competed in all these sports yet he could never excel in them. We were both great swimmers, an oddity since most of our many homies could not swim a stroke. We always managed to find a way to Zuma Beach, our favorite hangout.  We often stayed the entire night, blazing and dropping acid; tripping and visualizing the madness and insanity of the Viet Nam war that was dragging, we feared, all of us into its death grip.

By the time we got to high school, Bobby had met his soul mate, Val, and for most of their high school history they were virtually inseparable. Bobby settled down with Val, worked for a time at Lockheed and at other dead end jobs that his uncles hooked him up with. Back in the day you settled your disagreement with friend and foe, with your fist. Bobby had found his niche he was a great street fighter, before he learned to become a great boxer.

As providence would have it Bobby met one of best trainers in the entire world, a no nonsense, tough as nail angel masquerading as a burnt out trainer/manager. It was this man who developed Bobby Chacon into one of the greatest featherweight champions in the history of boxing. I have seen all of Bobby’s fights. I can tell you without reservation that at his best, Bobby Chacon was pound for pound as great a fighter as has ever stepped into the ring; just as Little Red Lopez, Bazooka Edwards, Rafael Limon and many other boxers who crumbled under this tremendous punching power and a heart of lion that never quit!

Boxing made Bobby rich, famous and like so many young athletes, the fame and glory intoxicated him. Bobby would box for many years, in some of the most glorious and savage fights ever witnessed. But by the time Bobby first became world champ, I felt that he had lost his way. In the vicious, dog eat dog, entourage leeches nipping at your heels life of fame and celebrity, Bobby lost all sense of reality. He turned his back on Val, his children and his family. Life became one big party that would lead to horrific tragedy, death and chaos. 

Over the ensuing 50 some years. I saw Bobby infrequently. He was generally drunk, and collecting can and bottles on the streets of Pacoima, pathetically recycling so he could gather enough money to get drunk again. The boxer’s dementia had savaged his mind. Often it was hard to understand what Bobby was saying. He was mostly interested in drinking, wanting nothing more than to get lost in the fog of intoxicatio.

The last time I saw Bobby was years go in Pacoima. It was a chance encounter.  He was walking down Van Nuys Boulevard, I pulled over and we made immediate eye contact.  He ran up to me with tears welling in his eyes. He wasn’t drunk and he looked deep into my eyes.  We could feel each other’s pain. He gave me a big bear hug and gently whispered into my ear, “Mando, do you think I was the best?”

I replied, “Bobby you were the best featherweight the world has ever known. On your best day you had knocked out all of great ones.”

He found the street curb, sat down, placed his hands between his knees and sobbed, maybe for what he was, or maybe for what he could have really been. 

Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition

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