Famed East LA Cut Man Joe Chavez Passes – Joe Chavez, a boxing corner man for many of the best prizefighters in the world, passed away on Saturday June 11 after months of battling cancer. He was reportedly 83 years old.
Boxing was always the world he delved into. Many in East Los Angeles and Southern California first met Chavez as youths in the always thriving boxing world. Chavez always had the same gentle charm and kindness no matter who he encountered.
I first met Chavez as an amateur boxer in Cleland House boxing gym near my East L.A. home in City Terrace during the 1960s. Decades later, when I began covering boxing as a journalist, he stopped me one day at a fight card and asked if I was the same kid who boxed at Cleland House. He wondered what happened to me and here we were 40 years later meeting again.
It astounded me that he remembered. Of course I remembered him too. But I was one of hundreds, maybe thousands of kids who passed through those East L.A. boxing gyms.
It’s a small world our boxing world. You meet people and never forget them. Here’s a portion of a story I wrote about Chavez nine years ago:
Chavez in East L.A.
Joe Chavez was originally from New Mexico but began boxing regularly in Los Angeles and had a couple dozen fights at both the Grand Olympic Auditorium and the Hollywood Legion Stadium during the 1950s. Later he became a trainer and manager of professional fighters. He first met Oscar De La Hoya at the old Resurrection Gym in East Los Angeles during the 1980s.
“I first saw Oscar when he was just eight years old,” said Chavez, to me about his days as a trainer at various boxing gyms in East L.A. like Cleland House boxing club, Hollenbeck Youth Center and the famous Main Street Gym in downtown Los Angeles. “I always used to see him around the gyms.”
Chavez trained fighters like Bobby Padilla, Ray Saldivar, and Alan Del La Torre. One of his brightest prospects came from Mexico City. After a victorious fight that boxer returned home to Mexico City and was killed.
“He was running in Chapultepec Park and someone killed him,” recalled Chavez. “Nobody knows what happened or why. He used to spar with Carlos Palomino.”
Success didn’t seem to go in Chavez’s direction but throughout the years his ability to wrap hands and serve as a cut man brought him to the attention of the more recognized fighters.
When De La Hoya suffered a career threatening broken left hand during a sparring session in December 2000 – the same hand that delivers his lethal left hooks and stifling jabs – it forced him to postpone a scheduled fight with Russia’s Roman Karmazin.
A number of fighters had spoken about Chavez’s solid work on hand wrapping and the De La Hoya team was desperate in their search for the proper guy to protect the East L.A. fighter’s fists. They didn’t have to look far. They called Chavez.
The East L.A. trainer drove to the Golden Boy Boxing Club (formerly the Resurrection Boxing Gym) and was given an on-the-spot audition. Chavez wrapped De La Hoya’s hands in front of the entire team. Then De La Hoya tried out the new handiwork and the team decided right there to sign Chavez. The first fight for Chavez would be on June 23, 2001, when Spain’s Javier Castillejo, the WBC super welterweight titlist, accepted De La Hoya’s challenge in Las Vegas.
It was a moment of immense pride for Chavez who privately told close friends that he was going to be the cut man for De La Hoya. It meant more to him than money.
Chavez was an artist when it came to hand wrapping. He always tinkered with different hand wrappings. For the oft-injured hands of De La Hoya the creative Chavez would shape makeshift ligaments from tape that he rolled up and placed between the fingers. They looked like pieces of dangling string. These reinforced the snugness of the fists and after the hands were wrapped, they fit perfectly into the boxing glove.
“I mold it into the hand,” explained Chavez to me back in 2007. “I use my imagination to think of ways to wrap a hand. I make changes.”
From his work with De La Hoya the doors opened to many of the elite fighters. Soon, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto came knocking. But he could often be seen working on the club shows with fighters making very little money. Chavez liked to keep busy and keep up with his craft.
“I like to go to small venues. I take the same care,” said Chavez before working on the mega fight between De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather in 2007. “I take pride in my work. You have to protect their hands. You wouldn’t send a soldier into war with a dirty rifle.
That was Chavez. Always understanding the importance of his job and the careers of those he served.
De La Hoya also remembers Chavez for more than just his work.
“To say that I was lucky to have Joe Chavez in my corner through much of my career would be a huge understatement. But as good a cut man as Joe was, he was an even better person. Humble and soft spoken, it didn’t matter who he was patching up on any given night, that fighter always got his best,” said De La Hoya on Monday. “The sport of boxing will be a little more empty without him. My family and I lost a friend.”
VIGIL & MASS: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Wednesday, June 15, 2016 Resurrection Church 3324 E. Opal St. Los Angeles, CA 90023
FUNERAL: 9:00 AM, Thursday, June 16, 2016 Resurrection Church 3324 E. Opal St. Los Angeles, CA 90023 BURIAL: Thursday, June 16, 2016 Calvary Cemetery 4201 Whittier Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90023
Famed East LA Cut Man Joe Chavez Passes