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Alexander Chavez, 73; Hall of Fame Boxer

October 08, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

Alexander "Fabela" Chavez, a lightweight boxer and crowd favorite at Southland shows from the mid-1940s through the mid-1950s, died Oct. 1 of lung cancer in Palm Springs. He was 73.

Chavez, known as "Fabulous" Fabela and described as the "youthful cherubic Mexican" by the media during boxing's Golden Age in Los Angeles, had a professional record of 41-24-7, according to boxing historian Don Fraser, and was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

"He was the kind of guy where [the fans] always got their money's worth," Fraser said. "He was very popular ... an exciting guy. Win lose or draw, he gave it his all."

Chavez was born in Albuquerque, N.M., on Oct. 15, 1929, but grew up in East Los Angeles. He used a fake ID to turn pro two years early at age 16 -- the name on the card was "Fabela" -- while a student at Roosevelt High School and won 21 of his first 25 fights.

He never won a world title but his popularity helped to sell out cards at the Olympic Auditorium and Hollywood Legion Stadium. It was in Hollywood that Chavez won the California featherweight title on a 12-round split decision against Lauro Salas on July 27, 1951.

He also had memorable bouts in Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park and against the likes of Harold Dade, Art Aragon, Jackie McCoy, Tommy Collins, Mario Trigo and Willie Pep.

"Fab was a fighter who just enjoyed the physical contact," said contemporary boxer Danny Dela'o. "That guy fought so many good fighters in the '40s who weren't bums, unlike today."

After retiring, Chavez worked as a meat packer and salesman, and in a steel factory before the sport called him back as a youth coach.

He ran a boxing center in Carson from 1975 to 1999, which was later named the Fabela Chavez Boxing and Weightlifting Center. Dela'o was his assistant there.

"That was everything to him," Dela'o said, adding that Chavez gave life lessons there as well as in-ring instruction.

"When I accepted this job, I told [the city] that it was not for boxing," Chavez told The Times in 1990. "I took it to give the kids exercise and to teach them discipline. If they want to learn about boxing, they first got to learn discipline."

Chavez is survived by his wife of 57 years, Catalina, sons Alexander and Adrian, daughters Delores Telles and Annette Lopez, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

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