Bobby Chacon, the featherweight champion of the world, stared down at his dinner plate in disgust. It contained three slices of tomato and some lettuce—all untouched. There was also a small mound of pieces of sirloin. The steak had been chewed, but not swallowed. "It's just not worth all this torture," Chacon said sadly. "I'm so weak I can't keep my balance. Fight? Huh, I can't even walk."
Two nights later—last Friday at the Forum in Los Angeles—Chacon, painfully thin and woefully weak, would fall under the fists of Ruben Olivares. It would take less than six minutes and although he would make more than $150,000 it would cost him the World Boxing Council title. And he would smile and say, "It was some fine way to end a crash diet."
But now, as Chacon stared down at the remains of his dinner in the small dining room of the Pico-Burnside Baths in downtown Los Angeles, there was only pain and the thought that he would have to endure it for another 48 hours.
Two weeks before the fight, Chacon had weighed 140 pounds. That's 14 pounds more than a featherweight is allowed. He had boxed more than 200 training rounds and put in another 150 on the heavy bag, but it just wasn't doing the job.
"For breakfast he was having two poached eggs and dry toast," said Fran Ginn, his manager and brother-in-law. "So we took away the toast. Then we took away the eggs."
And they headed for the steam rooms at Ellis Pasovoy's baths. Each night an attendant would beat Chacon with a whip of eucalyptus leaves to open his pores. Then he would turn up the heat. "Look," complained the attendant, "I've lost 16 pounds since I met the guy."
For Chacon, the loss in weight was much less dramatic. Three days before the fight he was still six pounds over the limit and the strength which had brought him 24 knockouts in 27 fights was fading fast. "I can't stand it," he said. "I can't eat, I can't sleep. I'm dying of thirst. It's like I'm pregnant: I've got cravings. All I can think about is hot dogs and root beer."
"Bobby has always had a weight problem," said Ginn. "I remember when he fought Danny Lopez in a non-title bout last year. Bobby would go to bed and then three guys would sit there to keep him away from the icebox. Sometimes we had to tackle him. There were some wild nights."
The problem is simple—in the three years the 23-year-old Chacon has been fighting professionally he has matured into a natural lightweight. But when a fighter steps up in class, which Chacon now surely must, he often has to start over down the list. "But I've been at the bottom before," Chacon says wryly. "The real bottom. Dope, stealing, one step away from them closing the door on me."
That was in high school and all Chacon's fights were on the street. He carried a blackjack in his lunch pail. He had been arrested for stealing, for possession of drugs. One day he took on four guys in an alley and his girl friend Valery, now his wife, said she had had enough. "You want to fight, go to a gym," she said. "Or just go away."