Mancuso: Four Years Later The Hector Camacho Legacy Still Strong

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day and four years to the day the boxing world mourns the loss of the three-time champion Hector “Macho” Camacho.  They will gather in Puerto Rico and Spanish Harlem where Camacho is still an icon. And they will pray at the small graveside in the Bronx on the grounds of St. Raymond’s Cemetery.

The final resting place for Camacho four years ago, days after he was fatally shot in Bayamon Puerto Rico, also epitomized his life as family had their own out of the ring quarrels. Camacho was declared brain dead and the inevitable of when should the plug be pulled further divided a family.

When the decision was made to pull Camacho off life support there was the heated discussions as to the final resting place. It was  either Puerto Rico, or a champion funeral and goodbye in New York where Camacho made his marks in the sport.

The legacy of this Boxing Hall of Famer is alive and well and hIs four legitimate sons try and continue that legacy. Two are active fighters, Christian, a featherweight who won another fight two weeks ago in Charlotte North Carolina and Hector Jr. who is on the comeback trail.

And for every fan of Camacho, “Macho Time” is alive and well.  Perhaps the most flamboyant fighter of the modern era, and a good one, is considered one of the greatest to come out of Puerto Rico. That distinction will get no argument from champions prior to and after the Camacho era.

This past June, the oldest, Hector Jr. was up in Canastota New York with his grandmother accepting the Hall of Fame honor. Then it was “Macho Time” and after Christian won his fight he kneeled in the corner and paid homage to his late Dad.

Tour the streets of Spanish Harlem and the Camacho legacy is evident.  Nearby bodegas and stores display the flag of Puerto Rico and the legacy of their proud champion can’t be missed.

“Because my father not only was a great champion, he was a good person,” said Hector Jr. a few days ago. He visited the old neighborhood as he often does where “Macho Time” is a legacy for every fighter of Puerto Rican descent that steps into a gym or the ring.

Yes, there were turbulent times and trouble always followed the champion with drug abuse and criminal charges. But, he never ducked an opponent and that’s where the legacy is remembered.  They say, Camacho was gunned down because of another drug dispute that went bad.

Though to this date police reports state the bullet was meant for his childhood friend that was parked outside a bar in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the city where Camacho was born.

There was a debate with doctors, family, and Camacho Jr. regarding the puling of life support and donation of organs. But there was never a debate about the legacy.

However, those who knew Camacho, those being family and friends continue their quest to find the truth.  Aware that their father and friend lived that adventurous lifestyle, there was a reality that Hector Camacho was enjoying his life at the time of his untimely death.  

And it was becoming a safer environment of appearing on various Spanish Language variety shows. including a weekly segment on the popular show “EL Gordo y La Flaca” named Macho News.

“People don’t know how much of a heart my father had when it came giving back to his people,” said Hector Jr. “You could be in a store, on the street, he always gave because he wanted to.”

Walk into the boxing gyms that remain in New York City and they reflect. Mendez Boxing Gym in the flatiron district, next in line to be the next staple of boxing gyms that produces champions, is dominated by Latino fighters. Some are New York natives and others arrived from Puerto Rico looking for the same opportunity that Hector Camacho went on to achieve.

You ask them, what does the name of Hector Camacho mean to you They respond, “One of the greatest. The best boxing champion to represent our people.”

They say, Camacho gave them an incentive to fight and pursue a dream of becoming the next champion from Puerto Rico. 

True, this boxing icon from Puerto Rico and New York may not be considered a role model, and at the time of his death there were those who said, well it was a matter of time because Hector Camacho was not living the model of success and fame in the proper way it should be.

And that fame which led to the other legacy of becoming his own promoter in and out of the ring ,according to many, was the eventual reason why Hector Camacho did not continue his post boxing career of mentoring the young and aspiring fighter.

But when you look at the way things have been going in boxing, and not for the best, there may never be another Hector Camacho. So tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day and we are grateful for the good we all have.

Hector Camacho had all the good you can get as a fighter.  The legacy will always be there for those accomplishments of becoming an accomplished champion, but the unfortunate aspect of his life was that unorthodox lifestyle he lived outside the ring.

Boxing had the good Hector Camacho in the ring with a 79-6-3 record and the memorable fights with Roberto Duran, Oscar De La Hoya and the final fight with Saul Duran.

That my friends is what should be remembered as the legacy continues.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich has covered countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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