This is an entry in an occasional series of posts looking back at the Ring Magazine Fights of the Year from 1970 to 2009.
In 1982, Rafael “Bazooka” Limon defended his WBC Super Featherweight championship against Bobby Chacon. This was their fourth meeting, and a true tie-breaker: Their three previous fights had resulted in a technical draw and one decision win for each man.
Chacon would emerge with a narrow unanimous decision victory (141-142, 141-143, 140-141 — I scored it 141-143). Based on the states of the fighters at the end of the bout this was an indisputably just verdict, and Limon looked very lucky to end the fight on his feet.
Chacon would make just one successful defense of his new title (against Cornelius Boza Edwards, in the very next FOTY) before losing to Ray Mancini, and eventually retiring in 1988. Interestingly, Chacon won all 7 of his post-Mancini fights, but never fought for another title. Limon, on the other hand, went 2-11 in his post-Chacon career, retiring in 1994.
When a boxer sports the nickname “Bazooka”, you sort of know what you’re in for. Limon was committed to the power punch. Chacon was a slugger himself, but the better and more subtle of the fighters here. The fight was a matter of whether Chacon could stand up to Limon’s power well enough to dismantle him with (somewhat) better technique.
In the event, he could, and it was Limon who looked lucky to survive a match in which he had jumped out to an early lead. It’s worth noting that Chacon probably needed his last-second KD to win the fight; absent the extra point, he would likely have been on his way to a MD draw.
It would be difficult to imagine more of a contrast with the Leonard/Hearns fight than this one; that was a boxing match, this was a brawl. What made this a great fight was its drama and unpredictability; as the advantage shifted back and forth between the fighters, and as either seemed capable of suddenly stopping the other at any time, this fight demanded the fan’s attention in a way that few do.
Limon’s style is particularly noteworthy; rarely have I seen a championship-level fighter throw such wild and (apparently) undisciplined punches. Chacon was no master tactician himself, but he seemed like the sort of solid and durable fighter who can sometimes grit his way to the top. The cliche is that “styles make fights”, and they made a great one here.
1: Chacon takes the more aggressive posture, as he slowly moves forward and Limon slowly retreats. It is, nevertheless, Limon who throws the more aggressive (and effective) punches. Both men look slow, show pawing, ineffective jabs, appear to have little defense, and seem to focus entirely on landing wide, sloppy power shots. As the round goes on something of a slugfest develops; I thought Limon clearly got the better of it. (As an aside: Compared to the Leonard/Hearns fight we saw last time, it’s almost hard to believe this is the same sport.)
2: Limon begins this round by actually showing a pretty good jab and some nice defensive moves, and seems to be winning it handily. Then the referee stops the action for a lengthy and poorly-motivated colloquy; after this break Chacon seems to do better — though after some back and forth the action finds Chacon in a corner and Limon pressing the attack. Chacon fights off the ropes and turns the tables on Limon, chasing him from one corner to the other. On balance, probably Chacon’s round — but since I feel the referee’s interference robbed Limon of momentum (in Chacon’s hometown) I’m going to score it even.
3: Chacon begins strongly, resuming the attack, showing a good jab, getting inside Limon’s guard and doing some good work in the first part of the round. The back half is more even until an exchange of blows sees Limon knock Chacon down with an awkward left. 10-8 Limon, in a round Chacon was probably otherwise on his way to winning.
4: Again, Chacon begins on the offensive. After perhaps 30s Limon sees his opening and counterattacks with wide powershots. Ultimately this round again seems Chacon trapped in the corner, fending off a prolonged attack from Limon, and again sees Chacon fight off with a handful of well-placed powershots. This is a difficult round to score, as Limon had the upper hand for more of the round, but Chacon’s punches did seem more effective. I score it for Chacon, narrowly, on the basis of effective punching, and some nice defensive work in the corner. (Aside: This round features one of the hardest headbutts I’ve ever seen.)
5: A pattern begins to emerge: Chacon begins each round on the attack, seeking to control the round with boxing technique. Limon looks for an opening to turn the round into a brawl. Each round Chacon seems able to extend the time during which he’s able to fight his fight, and Limon seems less and less effective at recovering from his initial defensive posture. Chacon’s round.
6: Another round marred by over-enthusiastic refereeing, as Isaac Herrera stops the action to lecture Limon just after he lands a solid left that seems to phase Chacon. Notwithstanding that, Chacon clearly wins this round, looking particularly sharp in its last minute.
7: Limon comes out on the attack, throwing wildly. He looks ineffective, until he catches Chacon flush with a wide punch that perhaps wobbles him. Chacon retreats to a corner while Limon throws one powershot after another. Chacon is able to fight his way off and chase Limon to the ropes, but by the end of the round Limon is back on the attack. I’m going to score this one for Limon, as the aggressor.
8: Chacon regains his stance as the attacker, and wins the bulk of this round. Limon does land some nice shots, and enjoys a 30s stretch in which he has Chacon trapped on the ropes, but simply loses more of the round than he wins.
9: An awesome round. It begins fairly evenly, with Chacon enjoying a slight edge. Then Chacon traps Limon on the ropes and seems to hurt him; this encourages Chacon to trade, and this appears to be a mistake, as Limon wins the initial exchange, sending Chacon into retreat. Finally, Chacon turns the tables again, and Limon looks lucky to survive the round, apparently out on his feet. The story here seems to be that Limon has enough power to drive Chacon back, but not enough to stop him, and that Chacon’s superior technique will win him 7 out of 10 exchanges.
10: Limon shows few ill-effects from the last round, and the combat seems pretty even until he catches Chacon with an overhand left that knocks him smartly down. Chacon is up quickly, and competitive for the balance of the round, but the KD makes this 10-8 Limon.
11: An interesting round, and a chance to analyze the typical exchange in which Limon attacks Chacon on the ropes or in a corner. Limon looks to have formidable power, but his shots are thrown very wide; this means they are slow, and that he leaves himself open for long periods of time when he attacks. Chacon’s punches are shorter and up the middle, so even when Limon is attacking Chacon can do a lot of damage in response. This pattern dominates this round, and the result is that in the last 30s it is Limon who seems exhausted from the exchange, despite seeming to get the better of it. On that basis one might award the round to Chacon, but I thought he spent too much time on the ropes and took too many shots to win it: 10-9 Limon.
12: A very even round. Both fighters show movement, and the action is more hectic than the sustained attacks we’ve seen to this point. Since both men have their moments, I’m calling another round even.
13: Limon comes out as the aggressor, and seems to win about 2 minutes of this round. Chacon, however, is able to fight him off, and in the closing seconds Limon looks very unsteady, and clinches in order to survive the round. Based on this dramatic reversal I score the round for Chacon.
14: The action begins in the proverbial phone booth, as the fighters clinch and brawl. After Limon is stunned by Chacon the fighters separate, although the round continues to be dominated by exchanges of power punches. Since Chacon wobbles Limon somewhere between 2 and 4 times, he wins the round. One must be impressed by the durability and resilience of these men.
15: This round seems to be relatively even until Chacon knocks Limon down with a 3-punch combination with 15s left in the round. Limon gets up with a handful of seconds left; if more time had been on the clock this would have probably been a KO, as Limon doesn’t look in good shape. As it is, however, no one seems interested in pressing the point, and the fight ends without another punch thrown.