May 15. This Date in Boxing History: A Spectacular Fight With A Bittersweet Postscript
May 15th marks the 30th anniversary of a scintillating fight. Contested on a Sunday afternoon at an indoor pavilion in the back lot of Caesars Palace, it pitted Bobby Chacon in a rematch with Cornelius Boza-Edwards. The 12-round donnybrook on NBC, with Marv Albert doing the blow-by-blow, would be named The Ring magazine Fight of the Year.
The fight was a doozy, but what stands out 30 years later are the back stories, the before and after. In retirement, the lives of the combatants took wildly divergent paths, a bittersweet denouement that reads like a Tale of Two Cities.
Bobby Chacon was an indifferent student at San Fernando High School in Los Angeles, but when he launched his boxing career at age 20 he was given the nickname "Schoolboy."
Chacon had his first nine fights at the LA Forum. He won them all, eight by knockout. With his hell-for-leather style, he cultivated a fan base while an undercard fighter still learning his craft.
His first setback, at the hands of the brilliant veteran Ruben Olivares, did little to damage his appeal. Five fights later, now 23-1, Chacon knocked out fellow LA hotshot Danny "Little Red" Lopez in a bout that mesmerized local fight fans.
There was nothing more at stake than city bragging rights, but Chacon vs. Lopez was a grand promotion, drawing 16,000-plus to the LA Sports Arena and nearly 3,000 more at a hastily-arranged closed circuit telecast at the nearby Olympic Auditorium.
Chacon was good copy. His back story enhanced his popularity.
It was the hackneyed story of a dead end kid who finds salvation in the arms of a good woman, but this was no Hollywood B-movie; it was genuine. The woman's name was Valorie. A petite young lady of Irish and Chinese descent, she kept Bobby grounded as his career took flight.
Bobby Chacon was 30 years old and seemingly past his prime when Valorie committed suicide, leaving him with three young children. But nine months after her death he turned back the clock, recapturing a 130-pound title in a 15-round scorcher with Bazooka Limon.
Cornelius Boza-Edwards also had an interesting back story, At age 15 he left war-torn Uganda to live in England with the couple that adopted him, surname Edwards. As an amateur, he caught the eye of prominent promoter Mickey Duff. Under Duff's management he won the WBC 130-pound title and successfully defended it in his first meeting with Bobby Chacon. The "schoolboy" started fast but faded and his corner tossed in the towel after 13 frames.
Boza-Edwards ("Boza" to his friends) also felt the anguish of losing a wife. She died of kidney failure, leaving him with a baby daughter. His rematch with Chacon may have been the first modern fight in which both contestants were widowers.
The sequel was expected to follow the general tack of the first encounter, but Chacon would again fool the experts, overcoming nasty cuts above both eyes to cop the decision.
The tailpiece to the Bobby Chacon saga isn't pretty. After quitting the ring, he served six months in jail for domestic abuse and his son was killed in a gangland shooting. In May of 1999, it was reported in the LA Times that he was living in a halfway house for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. His speech was slurred; his memory fragmented.
And what about the other guy?
Cornelius Boza-Edwards retired in 1987. He stayed on in Las Vegas, giving him the unusual distinction of having two adopted countries. He remarried and had two daughters. Securing them a good future was the paramount priority in his life. They attended private schools and then fine colleges, the older girl matriculating at an Ivy League school in New England and the younger at a Jesuit college in California.
His memory is crystal-clear. Last year he ran his fourth marathon. He weighs about the same as he did in his fighting days. At the Mayweather Gym, his current workplace, he looks as young as bystanders half his age.
His most recent reunion with Bobby Chacon came last year at the annual dinner of the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Los Angeles. The reunion, as always, was joyful, although Chacon wasn't able to convey his feelings in words.
We talked at length with Boza this week, renewing old acquaintances. Our first question inquired what he remembered most about his second skirmish with Bobby Chacon, the Fight of the Year.
"What I remember," he said, "is that we were two young guys giving it our best."