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5'3" junior featherweight Jackie Chavez was born on June 1, 1983. She began her career in combat sports as an amateur kickboxer training with Tony Rosales at the Rosales Karate and Kickboxing Academy in Los Lunas, New Mexico, south of Albuquerque.  After winning a national kickboxing title at age 16 in a close fight with Audrey Vela of Austin, Texas, Jackie decided to try her hand at professional boxing.

She made her pro boxing debut on October 5, 2001 at the Sky City Casino in Acoma, New Mexico, winning by a TKO at 0:29 in the third round over Brandy Leon of Prescott, Arizona. Chavez pressured Leon with combinations throughout the bout and knocked her down with a hard right before it was stopped. Leon fell to 1-5 with the loss. 

Returning to the Sky City Casino on December 14, 2001, Jackie  moved her record to 2-0 (1 KO) with a four-round majority decision over Nicole Gallegos of Albuquerque who fell to 0-2-1.

These wins persuaded Chavez to focus on her boxing and to begin training with her uncle, Ray Sanchez II, in nearby Albuquerque.   "For one thing, Ray is family,” Jackie told Chris Cozzone of New Mexico Boxing. “The other reason is, Ray is more boxing-based. My uncle’s worked with boxing all his life. Tony works with both kickboxing and boxing. So, there’s going to be a difference. You learn different things from different people.”  

Sanchez worked on adapting Jackie's stance and teaching her to throw a boxer's combinations. “My stance is more narrow and my legs are bent more,” said Jackie, "plus my training has a lot more movement now. It’s more speed and movement, and working my jab more. The strategy is not so much to be aggressive but to stay busy and keep punching.”

Jackie Chavez (left) vs. Vangie Abeyta
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone

On March 23, 2002 at Pojoaque, New Mexico, Jackie (121½ lbs) moved her record to 3-0 (1 KO) with a KO over debut fighter Vangie Abeyta of Denver, Colorado at 0:50 in the first round. Abeyta went to the canvas twice before the stoppage. According to Chris Cozzone: "When the bell rang for the first, as Chavez attempted to touch gloves with her opponent, Abeyta answered with a sneaky attack. Chavez covered up, got her bearings, and returned Abeyta’s sloppy shots with a vengeful combination. Almost immediately, a right hand put Abeyta down. She made the count but Jackie went in for the finish, re-depositing Abeyta on the canvas. At just 50 seconds, Chavez was given the KO win."

On April 13, 2002 at Isleta Casino, Isleta, New Mexico, a hometown crowd saw Jackie (124 lbs) move her record to 4-0 (3 KO) with a TKO of debut boxer Jodi Johnson (122 lbs) from Phoenix, Arizona at 1:41 in the opening round. Chris Cozzone wrote: "Jodi Johnson made her pro debut last night against Chavez ... with pitiable attempts to hit and hold, constantly turning away from Chavez’s punches and continually shutting her eyes — perhaps to convince herself this was all a bad dream and to make it all go away — Johnson had absolutely no business being in the ring. Not only did she display inexperience that could’ve gotten her injured, she looked as if she’d never laced on a pair of gloves before in her life."

Jackie Chavez (left) vs. RaquelTebo
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone

On August 17, 2002 at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, New Mexico, Jackie (119¾ lbs) faced a far more capable opponent and won a hard-fought four-round split (39-37,39-37,37-39) decision over Raquel Tebo (119½ lbs) of Las Vegas. Chavez spent the first two rounds boxing from the outside, sniping with good combinations, but Tebo tagged her with some good counterpunches. Chavez picked up her pace in the second but Tebo closed effectively in the third and began to score with good shots to Chavez's body. Chavez was still landing cleanly but Tebo came on strong in the fourth and had her backed against the ropes. Chavez fought back hard in an exciting and close round and came away with the split. Chavez was now 5-0-0 (3 KO) while Tebo fell to 3-2-1.

Although Chavez seemed set to progress to the next level as a pro boxer, she instead took an extended time out in 2003 while enrolled in school to study physical therapy. “I had a lot going on,” she says, “I was trying to get it all together." But eventually she returned to Ray Sanchez's gym and began to recondition herself.

Jackie Chavez (right) vs. Leanne Villareal
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone

On February 20, 2004 at the High School, Roswell, New Mexico, USA, Jackie won a four-round unanimous (39-37,39-37,39-38) decision over a very game debut fighter Leanne Villareal. Despite some ring rust, Chavez, who ended the fight covered in blood from her nose, improved to 6-0 (3 KO) after winning three of the four rounds against a tough opponent.

"I was a little nervous in that fight", Chavez told Chris Cozzone. "I was too cautious and should’ve been more aggressive. I could’ve landed a lot more punches and I was standing up a lot, not following through with my punches. Overall, I was happy with my performance, despite bleeding all over the place. I was able to get through it and focus on the fight."

A week later, she was preparing for her next fight by sparring with Yvonne Chavez, Holly Holm and amateur Archie Ray Marquez.

Jackie Chavez (right) vs. Mercedes Mercury
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone


On April 10, 2004 in front of a near-sellout crowd of 2,200 at the Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico Jackie (124 lbs) won a controversial six-round split decision over southpaw Mercedes Mercury (125 lbs) from Denver, Colorado. Mercury was just 3-3, but she was also on a three-fight winning streak coming into the fight.

The evening did not begin well for Chavez, as a misunderstanding about when the fight was to begin left Sanchez still wrapping Chavez's hands when they were called to the ring. Chavez skipped her usual warm-up, entered the ring cold, then got off to a slow start. Mercury established her right jab and used her left to catch Chavez coming in. Chavez landed a hard overhand right just before the bell, but Mercury controlled the opening  round. In the second, Mercury again kept Chavez at bay with her right jab, then use hard lefts to deter her from working her way inside. Mercury began to taunt Chavez, but Chavez eventually broke through Mercury's defense and started to land with both fists i the third. Chavez picked up her pace in the fourth and tagged Mercury with solid rights.  The fifth was a contest between Chavez’s short rights and Mercury’s strong straight lefts.  Realizing that she might be in trouble, Chavez pressured Mercury hard in the sixth but Mercury appeared to give as good as she got. Chris Cozzone reports that he scored it 58-56 for Mercury. This matched one judge's tally, but two others scored it 58-56 for Chavez, giving her a controversial split decision. Chavez advanced her to 7-0 (3 KOs) while Mercury dropped to 3-4 (1 KO).

“It’s all a learning experience,” Chavez later told Cozzone. “These are the kinds of opponents I need to fight.  My number one goal is not just to win fights but to improve. You can win a fight with just one punch, like what happened in my pro debut, but my goal is to beat someone who’s skillful, and knows what they’re doing. Like Mercury.”   For her part, Mercury said she thought she won the fight easily. Her corner vowed never to return to Albuquerque but offered Chavez a rematch ... in Denver!

Jackie Chavez (right) vs. Jayla Ortiz
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone

On November 20, 2004 at the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio, Colorado, Jackie fought the experienced and elusive Jayla Ortiz of Santa Fe, New Mexico for the vacant IFBA World Junior Featherweight belt, outpointing her by 96-94,96-94 and 100-90 over ten rounds.

According to Chris Cozzone, the battle of the two world-rated contenders from New Mexico "wavered between tactical and explosive—and not without its share of controversy. The question of the night was whether Chavez would be able to chase down the ever-elusive Ortiz and let her have it; or whether the more experienced Ortiz would out-slick Chavez. The answer was ‘yes ’ and ‘yes,’ making a very close fight. The first round was tentative and fairly close, with Chavez ’s right hands on a par with Ortiz’s slightly busier counter-punching, until the closing moments when Chavez pinned Ortiz against the ropes and let loose with a volley of punches that gave her the round. Round Two could have gone either way, depending on whether you liked Ortiz’s quicker combos, albeit of the pitter-pat variety, or Chavez’s more authoritative right hands. Chavez, though, was still waiting too long and a couple right hands were not enough to give her the nod. In the 3rd, Chavez started to work, landing right hands more often and closing the round in explosive fashion by trapping her opponent in her own corner, unloading several power shots and forcing Ortiz to tie up until the bell. Chavez continued to pull ahead in the fourth, pressuring Ortiz who showed heart but spent the round on her bike. It looked as if the bigger, stronger Chavez was starting to dominate. But Ortiz turned the fight around in Rounds Five, Six and Seven. Chavez took the 5th off, letting Ortiz outhustle her, and in the 6th and 7th, Ortiz simply counterpunched her way back into the fight, avoiding the less-busy Chavez’s right hands while dictating the pace by outhustling. Chavez had a better round in the 10th but Ortiz was proving too slippery for her. Instead of applying pressure, Chavez simply let Ortiz control the action. With the 8th round 10-10, I had the fight dead even going into the ninth round. The ninth was, once again, very close but I thought Chavez eked the round out with her right hands—usually thrown in predictable three-punch combos—although Ortiz was showing grit by coming at Chavez with her own furious flurries. Chavez closed the show, however, finally taking the fight to Ortiz in a way that would’ve closed the show early if she’d done it this way from the start. At the end of ten, I had it 97-95 for Chavez."

"When I won I was shocked," said Chavez. “I felt Ortiz won some of the middle rounds and thought it was even before the last two rounds, but I was confident I’d won after the tenth. She was difficult to fight. She moved a lot and although I thought I hurt her a couple times, I couldn’t finish her off.” Ortiz complained about the scoring. “I gave the fight all I had and I know it was a close fight,” she said “But ‘100-90?’  C’mon! " Ortiz fell to 11-6-4 (3 KOs) with the loss

Chavez vowed to go back to the more aggressive style she had used in her earlier fights, before her layoff. "I've got to stay busy. One of my biggest fall-backs (in the layoff) is that I lost my aggressiveness. My first two fights I was very aggressive. Then I was coming up against boxers and realized, 'Hey, I've got to quit getting hit so much.' I pulled back from my style. Now I need to let it go. In my fight against Jayla, I should've opened up more. Punched more. I should be doing more than throwing one-twos and backing off. The problem is, I've been too nice in the ring."

Jackie Chavez (right) vs. Audrey Vela
© Copyrighted photo by Chris Cozzone

On June 12, 2005 at the Ohkay Casino at San Juan Pueblo near Española, New Mexico, Jackie defended the IFBA Junior Featherweight title against her former kickboxing rival, Audrey Vela of Austin, Texas. When she had fought Vela in Austin four years earlier, she felt intimidated by Vela's muscular physique and speed ... but won a close bout, stripping the hard-punching Vela of her title. "It was a tough match," Jackie told the Albuquerque Journal's Mike Hall. "Whenever we traded punches, she was schooling me. If it had been boxing, I honestly have to say she was the better boxer than I was. What saved me was my kickboxing skills" 

With Vela challenging for Chavez's world boxing title, the rivalry was set for Round Two!  Chavez pulled off the double over Vela in another close fight, winning by a ten-round split (97-93,97-94,93-97) decision as Vela tired in the later rounds. Vela appeared to be the stronger fighter at first as she used her strength to muscle her way in and dominate Chavez in the early going. But although Vela could outmuscle Chavez early, she lacked something in endurance and began to tire as the fight went on. Chavez began to make inroads as she fought back and staggered Vela with a right in the sixth. Urged on by a partisan crowd, Chavez gained the upper hand in the later rounds as Vela lost the smooth rhythm that she displayed early in the fight.  Vela landed several hard counters as Chavez pressed her attack in the tenth, but Chavez came out the winner on the score-cards after a close, difficult battle.  

"I was a little disappointed in my performance," Chavez said after the fight. "I should have stayed outside. I needed to throw more punches."

Española fighter Isaac Brown was among those who thought Chavez was lucky to get the decision. "I thought Audrey got robbed, but that's no disrespect to Jackie," he said. "Both of them fought like hell."

Chavez said she would like to take on the top two fighters in her division: Kelsey Jeffries and Alicia Ashley, but not right away! "I'm not ready yet for them," she said. "But in a few fights, I hope to be. Vela is a step toward them."

"It’s awesome to be a world champion,” says Chavez. “It’s the best feeling in the world. A lot of girls are coming after me now, it forces me to keep my head on straight. Before, I did this for fun, to improve my skill. Now, it's different. There's a lot to lose."

On September 23, 2005 at Jean Pierre Sport Complex in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Lisa Brown (121¾ lbs) of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada used a relentless body attack to pound out a clear ten-round unanimous (98-92,100-90,100-90) decision over Jackie for the WIBC and WIBA Junior Featherweight titles. According to local reports, Lisa peppered Jackie with left hooks to run up a big lead before Chavez tried to make a comeback in the late going.  Lisa Borwn, who was fighting in her birthplace for the first time as a pro boxer, improved to 12-1-2 (4 KOs) while Chavez suffered her first pro loss. (Jackie's IFBA Junior Featherweight title was not on the line.)  Chavez prepared for the bout by sparring with Holly Holm, who had pulled off a big upset by beating Christy Martin in Albuquerque the previous weekend.

On January 27, 2006 at the Palladium in Hollywood, California,
Jeri Sitzes (124 lbs) of Springfield, Missouri won a 10-round unanimous (99-91,98-92,98-92) decision over Jackie (124½ lbs) for the NABF World Featherweight title. According to the report from WBAN correspondent David Avila, "
The main event ... saw Jeri Sitzes give away the first round to Jackie Chavez then stepped on the gas while over-powering her willing opponent. Sitzes plowed through Chavez with a blistering but controlled attack ... and won nine of 10 rounds with counter-rights and stinging left hooks against the tough New Mexican". Jeri Sitzes improved to 9-6-1 (4 KOs) with the win while Jackie fell to 9-2-0 (3 KOs) with her second straight pro loss.

Lisa Brown vs. Jackie Chavez in March 2007
© Copyrighted photograph by Mary Ann Owen

On March 22, 2007 at the Isleta Casino near Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lisa Brown (122 lbs) of Canada won the IFBA Junior Featherweight title with a 10-round unanimous (99-91,97-93,97-94) decision over Jackie (122 lbs). Lisa's power and ring experience controlled most of the bout while Chavez's best round  was in the fifth, when she came alive with the home crowd chanting her name throwing a barrage of sharp combos with Brown pinned near the ropes in the closing moments. Lisa Brown improved to 13-3-3 (4 KOs). (For coverage of the weigh-in, and more fight photos by Mary Ann Owen and Patricia Butaud, see MPEG/Photo Galleries #419 and #420 on the WBAN Member Site).

Ada Velez and Jackie Chavez, Sept. 2007
© Copyrighted photograph by J.B.Gallegos
courtesy Fresquez Productions

On September 21, 2007 at the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, New Mexico,  Ada Velez (122 lbs) of Hollywood, Florida won a six-round majority (58-56,58-56,57-57)  decision over Jackie (122 lbs). Velez wasn't slowed by anything that a busy Chavez threw, but was more effective with her own punches.  Chavez's ineffective opening right appeared to be her undoing.

"I wasn't necessarily trying to land a big right hand, but when it didn't work, I should have been better prepared with
some combinations,"
said Chavez. "I got frustrated with that, and then I kind of tensed up."  Chavez implied that her future in boxing is unclear, having lost four straight decisions after starting at 9-0. "I'll sit down and talk with my manager (Andy Rivera)," she said. 
 Velez improved her record to 15-3-2 (6 KOs) with the win, while Chavez fell to 9-4-0 (3 KOs).   (For more fight photos by J.B.Gallegos, see Photo Gallery #450 on the WBAN Member Site).

Chavez works for Intel in Rio Rancho, New Mexico by day as a parts expediter, then trains in the evenings at Sanchez's gym in Albuquerque's South Valley. She also goes to school part-time for physical therapy and massage. She plans to return to school full-time if she makes more money from boxing. "But that might take some time," she says, adding that "women's boxing needs to pick up."

Many thanks to Chris Cozzone of New Mexico Boxing for the use of his photos and reports in this profile of Jackie! Please visit the original coverage of her fights at his web site ... links below. 

Other Jackie Chavez links


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