New York – For three decades Hector Camacho made us talk when he laced up the gloves and went in the ring. The past few years, Camacho was discussed more about his actions outside a ring, and in the past few days we prayed as he was declared brain dead.
Four days ago in the drug torn city of Bayamon Puerto Rico, the 50-year old Camacho, was in the passenger seat of a car. His friend was shot and killed as a drug related incident is the probable cause. Reportedly 10-ounces of cocaine were found in the vehicle outside a bar.
Camacho may have been an innocent bystander, and a victim, regardless he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Outside the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan fans and friends held a vigil. Early Saturday morning, with family by his side, the last fight was over as Camacho was removed from life support.
His oldest son, Hector Jr. the professional middleweight, said on Friday, “My father is a fighter,” believing there was hope no matter what the medical officials said.
Yet, this was the biggest fight for Hector Camacho, survival after a stellar career. There were always problems with the so-called fast life. Around suspicious characters, drugs, alcohol, and domestic violence, Camacho was always renowned for what he accomplished in the ring.
A first of the flamboyant fighters, we never knew what to expect from Camacho’s ring attire, to what he said, and how he fought. It was a career of controversy, but never a question when he opposed the biggest stars including Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Roberto Duran and Julio Cesar Chavez.
He lost to Trinidad, by standards the major boxing star from Puerto Rico, and came up short in his last major title fight to the welterweight champion, De La Hoya, by unanimous decision in 1997.
It will hardly be remembered, his final fight, a loss to Saul Duran in May 2010. He finished with a record of 79-6-3, which also included a fifth round knockout that stopped the comeback and ended the career of Leonard.
Multiple championships came to a youngster who was known as a lightweight prodigy from the streets of Spanish Harlem. In total world champion in three weight classes and described him as a showman, at a time in the 1980’s when “Macho Man” became a name that was well known.
The late boxing historian and author Bert Sugar, in one of his last books published, “The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists,” described Camacho as one of the most colorful characters in the sport.
Said Sugar, “The Macho Man” changed if not the face, then at least the wardrobe of boxing entering the ring in outfits that make it look as if the Goodwill box had thrown up on him wearing everything from battle fatigues to Roman headgear to Tarzan loincloths and inspiring other fighters.”
In essence, Camacho provided that inspiration to more than one fighter including the undefeated welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. They followed his style and few could.
But it was that rematch with Greg Haugen, at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas back in 1991 that set up his biggest fight at the time, a lackluster performance and unanimous decision loss to Chavez at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas for the lightweight title.
“It was a fight he would always talk about, in that it made him feel he accomplished what he had to do,” said Hector Jr. to this writer earlier this year.
The older son of Camacho, who continues to try and revive an up and down career commented, “If anything my father will leave a legacy on the sport because he never backed down and gave the fans what they wanted.”
In other words, Camacho would hardly disappoint. And today, the sport hardly gets noticed because they don’t make fighters like they used to. The style and flamboyance of Camacho could be seen immediately when he made his professional debut with a win in 1980, before thousands of hometown fans at the Felt Forum, an adjacent arena at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
No, they no longer produce fighters like Hector Camacho. Mayweather is in the ring once a year. Camacho could be seen three or four times in a boxing calendar year.
When the camera was on, when the reporter approached it was always, “Its Macho Time.” Getting the answer was difficult because Camacho was the showman. However, there was always that stigma of being around the wrong crowd of friends and people.
“Because my Dad liked to have a good time did not make him a bad person,” said Camacho Jr. to this writer earlier this year. Unfortunately the trouble out of the ring, of numerous arrests, and the drugs and alcohol will be a part of the legacy.
Early Saturday morning, a second heart attack was the ending when a decision was made to end life support. Camacho Jr. was in denial until the final moments. He had arrived in Puerto Rico Friday night from Kansas City where he was training for his next fight December 13th in Atlanta Georgia.
“The staff of boxerspomsors.com mourns the loss of a true champion to his family and friends. We truly believe boxing will never see the likes of a Hector Camacho ever again,” said Bobby Sanchez a part of the sponsorship and corporate team of Camacho Jr.
Though we will always remember the flamboyance and the craft Camacho was known for, there is also no denying that those fast hands and stardom propelled him from a troubled young man to championship fame.
The sport of boxing always has a way of taking a troubled kid off the streets and into the spotlight. Some make the best of it and as of last week Camacho was still working on it, becoming more popular with stardom in Florida and Puerto Rico.
He was a regular on Spanish Language television including a variety show “Es macho Time” seen on You Tube.
Yes, this is a sad ending. Many times the sport gets headlines when a champion goes down like this. But we will never forget the great highlights and how Hector Camacho made the boxing fan smile as he went for the finish.
Rest in Peace Champ!