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Jesus 'Chucho' Castillo dies at 68; Mexican boxing champion

Castillo, a hard-punching bantamweight with a huge following in Los Angeles, fought four celebrated title fights at the Forum between 1968 and 1971.

January 19, 2013|By Claire Noland, Los Angeles Times
  • Ruben Olivares, right, and Jesus 'Chucho' Castillo are shown during one of their three fights at the Forum in the early 1970s. The fights cemented Castillo's reputation with L.A. fight fans.
Ruben Olivares, right, and Jesus 'Chucho' Castillo are shown… (Theo Ehret )

Jesus "Chucho" Castillo, a Mexican bantamweight champion celebrated in Los Angeles for four epic title fights at the Forum between 1968 and 1971, has died. He was 68.

Castillo died Tuesday at a Mexico City hospital of complications from surgery, according to Mexican media reports.

Like many Mexican boxers, Castillo had a tremendous following in Los Angeles. In his first title match at the Forum on Dec. 6, 1968, he challenged Australian world bantamweight champion Lionel Rose — and his countrymen packed the arena.

Displaying his typical hard-punching style, Castillo lost a disputed split decision to Rose in 15 rounds. An unruly mob of partisan spectators rioted to protest the outcome, lighting fires inside and outside the building and throwing bottles and chairs toward the ring.

Despite that drama, it was Castillo's three championship bouts against fellow Mexican bantamweight Ruben Olivares that cemented his reputation with Los Angeles fight fans.

Castillo, who fought at 118 pounds, was a tough, introverted boxer from rural Mexico. Times columnist Jim Murray put him in the category of "a swarmer, a two-fisted fighter with gold in his teeth, murder in his heart, and the sensitivity to pain of a tackling dummy....

"He fights people no one else will fight," Murray continued in a 1968 column for The Times. "As long as it doesn't have scales or breathe fire or live under water or have tusks or a mane, Chucho will take the match."

His rival Olivares, owner of the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. bantamweight titles, was exuberant, outspoken and unbeaten in the boxing ring.

In the first fight, Castillo lost a 15-round unanimous decision at the Forum on April 18, 1970. The match set a then-record gate of $281,840 for an indoor sporting event in California.

In the Forum rematch on Oct. 16 of that year, Castillo wrested away Olivares' titles with a 14-round technical knockout. Olivares, unable to fight after a cut over his right eye bled profusely, lost for the first time in 60 fights.

In the third meeting at the Forum, on April 2, 1971, Olivares won his championship belts back with a 15-round unanimous decision and continued building a Hall of Fame career.

Castillo fought only a dozen more times, including matches against Bobby Chacon and Danny "Little Red" Lopez. He retired from the ring in 1975 with a record of 47-18-2 with 22 knockouts.

Castillo was born June 17, 1944, near Leon in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. After becoming a professional fighter, he moved to Mexico City, where he also owned a clothing store and real estate.

Information on survivors was unavailable.

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