Home Boxing History Chico Vejar: From Stamford Schoolboy to Boxing Sensation

Chico Vejar: From Stamford Schoolboy to Boxing Sensation

Fifty years ago today Stamford's Chico Vejar announced his retirement from boxing. In this April 9, 1975 he joins other boxing luminaries gathered for final plans to bring professional boxing back to Stamford. Left to right, former world featherweight champion Willie Pep, Ptl. Vincent Hatterman of sponsoring Stamford Police Association, Vejar, who was the state boxing commissioner and Kayo Morgan, onetime boxing great from Stamford.

Name: Isidoro Francisco (Chico) Vejar
Born: 5 September 1931 Stamford , Connecticut, USA
Died: 19 September 2016
Career: 1950-1961
Record: 116 fights 92 wins (43 by KO/TKO), 20 (3 by KO/TKO), 4 draws
Division: Welterweight/Light-middleweight/ Middleweight
Stance: Orthodox
Titles: None
Major Contests
Scored wins over: Terry Young, Carmine Fiore, Enrique Bolanos, Art Davis (twice), Vince Martinez **, Billy Graham*, (twice), Ramon Fuentes, Pat Lowry, Joe DeNucci (twice), Jose Gonzalez, Wilf Greaves.
Lost to: Eddie Campo, Chuck Davey (twice). Vince Martine **, Tony DeMarco **, Ramon Fuentes, Kid Gavilan **, Ralph “Tiger” Jones, Joey Giambra, Joey Giardello (twice) **, Gene Fullmer **, Mickey Crawford, Art Aragon*, Armando Muniz, Stan Harrington*, Rudell Stitch, Luis Rodriguez **,
Drew with: Jed Black, Andres Selpa
**Past/ future holder of a version of a world title
* Unsuccessful challenger for a version of a world title

Tanabe (left) at the 1960 Olympics

Chico Vejar’s Story
Vejar was born in Stamford, Connecticut on 5 September 1931. He attended Stamford High School and would eventually go on to study Drama at New York University. He got into boxing after being arrested for punching a policeman who had prodded him with his night stick. As he was leaving court having been fined $25 the same policemen advised him he should use his fists to make some money. The next day Vejar went to a gym and fell in love with boxing. He was still a High School student when had his first pro fight in March 1950 at the age of 18 and because of his schooling was initially nicknamed the Stamford Socking Schoolboy”. He won his first 32 fights, 20 by KO/TKO before losing on a split decision against Eddie Compo in September 1951. It was the first time fighting in a ten round bout in Madison Square Garden (MSG) for Vejar. He had won four undercard fights and his exciting style quickly gained him promotion to ten round status. At that time Compo had lost just 3 of his 73 fights. Despite the loss Vejar became a big attraction for MSG and for the series of Friday Night Fights carried on TV back then. Vejar’s eventually popularity led to two movie roles in 50’s films starring Audie Murphy and Tony Curtis. Before one of his MSG fights because of his drama studies it was arranged for him to appear on a TV show live from his dressing room to recite a soliloquy from Hamlet. Vejar did it and then won the fight. A few days later a drama critic wrote “Vejar won the fight but wound up murdering Shakespear”. Vejar was back at the MSG in January 1952 scoring a win over Mexican favourite Enrique Bolanos and he improved his record to 41-1 before suffering back-to-back losses against Chuck Davey in 1952. Davey was unbeaten 32 fights when they first clashed. Vejar came off the canvas four times in that first fight but lasted the distance. When they met again eight weeks later Vejar was knocked out in the fifth round. Vejar then ran his record to 48-3 including a victory over future welterweight title challenger Vince Martinez. Vejar was still fighting and winning in 1954 even though he was doing his army service. In early 1954 Vejar was seriously injured in a plane crash and there were doubts whether he would ever fight again but he was back in the ring in October. He scored eight wins but then in a welterweight title eliminator in 1955 he was stopped inside a round by Tony DeMarco. Vejar continued to keep busy fighting in main events around the county. He was winning more the he was losing but he was losing the big ones and not getting the breaks. He went 6-4 in 1957 with losses against Ralph Tiger Jones, Joey Giambra, Joey Giardiello and Gene Fullmer. He was 8-5 in a busy 1958 losing against Mickey Crawford, Art Aragon, Armando Muniz, Stan Harrington and Rudell Stitch but twice beating Joe DeNucci. He was still in demand in 1959 and 1960 but had already started to appear in films. Vejar had another more important thing than boxing or films on his life. His two-year-old son Jimmy had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and after beating Wilf Greaves in March 1961 Vejar retired from boxing at the age of twenty-nine to spend time with his son. Jimmy died the following year and Vejar immersed himself in helping those who had family members affected by cerebral palsy taking up the post of volunteer Board member of local chapter of the of the United Cerebral Palsy Association and organising a Jimmy Vejar Day Camp for children with cerebral palsy. He also organised fund raising events rounding up boxers such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler, Rocky Graziano, Emile Griffith, Carmen Basilio and Billy Graham to attend. He maintained his ties to boxing as a member of the Connecticut State Athletic Commission and had other roles in films. He was inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006. He also “appeared” at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the shape of a life-size portrait of him training in the 1950’s. Vejar continued with his work to help those suffering from cerebral palsy and their carers and was a popular local speaker on youth issues until his death in September 2016 at the age of 85.