Valorie Chacon was done with the empty promises.
It was March 1982, and Chacon's husband, Bobby, was foolishly pursuing an impossible dream: Fighting for a world title. His refusal to quit would be understandable had the former “Schoolboy” not already won a title. But the WBC featherweight strap had draped his shoulder six years earlier. And he should've recognized that he was not that fighter anymore.
After losing via knockout to Cornelius Boza Edwards in May 1981, Chacon had seemingly come to terms with his failed quest. He provided Boza with a good scrap, but ran out of gas in the late rounds – a telltale sign of an aging fighter.
“At 29, you're not 21 anymore,” he was told.
But Chacon was harassed by demons. Demons of unfulfilled potential. After winning the WBC featherweight title in 1974, Chacon was on top of the world. The photos of the handsome Californian sitting proudly atop a Bentley were a snapshot of his prime.
He was young, good-looking, rich, happily married – and the best 126-pound fighter in the world after knocking out Alfredo Marcano in the ninth round on Sept. 7, 1974.
Then, the story becomes a familiar fight tale: Chacon squandered everything. Fighters so young assume the fantasy will last a lifetime. But nothing lasts forever – especially in boxing, where most lighter-weight fighters who depend on speed and reflexes are done by the time they hit 30.
Two fights after beating Marcano, Chacon lost via second-round knockout to nemesis Ruben Olivares. A short prime indeed.
Chacon eventually gained revenge on Olivares in their 1977 rubber match, and earned a shot at new champion Alexis Arguello. But he was stopped in round seven by the all-time great Nicaraguan in 1979.
Even Chacon's staunchest supporters realized the end was near then.
The '81 knockout loss to Boza-Edwards was considered Chacon's swan song. He gave the Ugandan quite a fight. But youth was on Boza's side.
Now, Chacon would be forced to quit boxing. Or so Valorie thought.
But to her horror, Bobby kept fighting. Two more fights followed the Boza-Edwards loss. Chacon was working toward yet another title shot, against another young champion who was poised to knock his tired head around more.
Valorie must have thought, “When will it end?”
When she realized the answer was more or less “never”, Valorie gave up on life. She put a pistol to her head and shot herself dead. Bobby fought the next night, on March 15, 1982, knocking out Salvador Ugalde in hometown Sacramento.
Afterwards, he broke down and cried in the ring. But the only reason he had to quit was gone.
And so he kept going.
Valorie probably would be shocked to find out Bobby finally won that second world championship – stunning the boxing world in the process. He decisioned another old rival, Bazooka Limon, in 1982's best fight.
He even beat Boza-Edwards in their thrilling rematch in May, 1983.
But even after absorbing a nasty beating from the younger and bigger Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini in January, 1984, Chacon pointlessly continued his career.
He won four fights in 1985, over some decent opposition like Freddie Roach, Arturo Frias and Rafael Solis.
But at what price?
Chacon fought until 1988 – 16 years after starting his pro career. Realistically, he should've stopped right when Valorie asked him to stop – back in 1981. But he kept on.
Today, he is a walking exhibit of what happens to fighters who go on too long.
Chacon suffers from pugilista dementia, a common condition among ex-fighters who take too many blows to the head. Often, he can't remember conversations that took place five minutes prior. There are times he can't recall people he's known all of his life.
A few years after his boxing career ended, Chacon was reportedly spotted at a Sacramento junkyard – collecting cans to support himself. In 2002, USA Today ran a story detailing Chacon's residence in a 200-room Los Angeles transient way station, where local non-profit groups buy rooms for the homeless. He was 47 at the time, living on a social security disability pension.
He couldn't remember his non-boxing past. Or maybe he didn't want to. Besides Valorie, one of Chacon's sons was killed in a 1991 gang-related shooting.
“I had it all, and I threw it all away,” he told USA Today.
But there is a happy ending for Bobby Chacon.
The California slugger was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Thursday. This summer, he'll stand up there with nine others, dip his arm into a vat of goo and make a cast impression of his fist. They'll hang a picture of his handsome mug on the hallowed walls of Canastota, right beside every great that ever stepped into the ring.
He'll receive the one thing for which he endured a lifetime of pain, tragedy and suffering: Boxing immortality. The smile on his face come this June will tell you that, yes, it was worth it.
And Valorie would be happy to know that the fighting, finally, is over.
USA Today contributed to this column