Bobby Chacon, a California boxer whose brawling style in the ring helped him win two world titles in the 1970s and 1980s but whose personal life was marred by misfortune, died Sept. 7 at a hospice center in Hemet, Calif. He was 64.
He fell and struck his head while in hospice care for dementia, Rick Farris, president of the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame, told the Los Angeles Times.
Mr. Chacon, whose good looks and charisma made him a fan favorite, had many memorable fights, including four with longtime rival Rafael “Bazooka” Limón. He was named to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.
He was “one of the most exciting fighters in the history of the West Coast,” Farris told the Times, “an amazing blood-and-guts brawler who took on the best fighters in three divisions.”
Mr. Chacon was a top featherweight — with a maximum weight of 126 pounds — when he challenged Venezuela’s Alfredo Marcano for the World Boxing Council’s championship in 1974. Mr. Chacon dominated the fight and claimed the title with a ninth-round technical knockout.
He had one successful title defense but was, by his own admission, drawn to the fast life, including excessive drinking and drug use. In 1975, only 10 days before he was scheduled to defend his crown against Rubén Olivares, Mr. Chacon was 16 pounds overweight.
He managed to sweat off the extra pounds, but in his weakened state he was no match for Olivares. The fight was stopped in the second round after he was knocked down twice.
Early in his career, Mr. Chacon was known for his quickness, strong punching and command of defensive tactics. Later, as the demands of a heavy boxing schedule — he had 18 fights from 1975 to 1979 — began to erode his ring skills, he became more of a toe-to-toe slugger.
His wife, the former Valorie Ginn, begged him to give up boxing, especially after devastating losses to super-featherweight champions Alexis Argüello in 1979 and Cornelius Boza-Edwards in 1981. She wanted him to find a regular job and to stay home with their three children.
In March 1982, on the eve of Mr. Chacon’s fight with Salvador Ugalde, Valorie Chacon committed suicide with a rifle at the family’s ranch in Northern California. Her husband went through with the fight, winning by TKO.
“She was tired of being a boxer’s wife,” he told the New York Times afterward. “She just wanted to be my wife, not my trainer. She was always on me about it. But boxing was something I had to do, to get out of my blood.”
From 1975 to 1982, Mr. Chacon had four fierce battles with Limón, a rugged boxer from Mexico. He lost the first bout, and the second ended in a draw. In their third fight, Mr. Chacon won a split decision.
They met a fourth time in 1982 for the super-featherweight title (130 pounds), in what was ranked by Ring magazine as the fight of the year. Mr. Chacon was bloodied and was knocked down twice, but he rallied late to knock down Limón late in the 15th round and win the title by a split decision.
“I had to get it again,” Mr. Chacon said after the fight. “This is dedicated to my wife, she couldn’t wait for me.”
A year later, he defended his crown against Boza-Edwards, in another bout that Ring called the fight of the year. He knocked down the Ugandan fighter three times to avenge an earlier loss.
The two fighters were scheduled to fight a rematch a year later, but those plans were derailed by the intricate rules of boxing’s sanctioning bodies and the influence of powerful promoters, who demanded that Mr. Chacon meet another contender, Hector “Macho” Camacho. In the end, the bouts never took place, and Mr. Chacon was stripped of his title.
In 1984, Mr. Chacon went up one weight class to fight lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, who gave him such a beating that it took 10 stitches to close a cut below his left eye.
After referee Richard Steele stopped the fight in the third round, Mr. Chacon reportedly told him, “Thank you.”
Bobby Chacon was born Nov. 28, 1951, in the Sylmar section of Los Angeles. His parents were from Mexico, and his father deserted the family shortly after his birth.
After getting in street fights in his youth, Mr. Chacon turned to boxing in his teens and began his professional career in 1972. He won his first 19 fights, 17 of them by knockout.
In 1991, one of his sons was killed in what police described as a gang-related shooting.
Mr. Chacon, whose final fight was in 1988, had a career record of 59-7-1, with 47 knockouts. In 15 contests against reigning or past world champions, he had a record of 8-6-1.
In 1984, Mr. Chacon served more than 100 days in jail after being convicted of beating his second wife, Melissa Mendonsa Chacon. They later divorced, and he was married at least two more times. A complete list of survivors could not be confirmed.
Mr. Chacon earned millions of dollars in the ring and once owned a fleet of Rolls-Royces and as many as 40 horses. By 2000, however, he was living in poverty, collecting cans along roadsides for resale. According to numerous accounts, he suffered from a form of early-onset dementia commonplace among boxers.
“Life, it ain’t the friendliest place to be,” Mr. Chacon told People magazine in 1983. “But where else you going to be?”