It was more then six years ago when Hector “Macho” Camacho, a three-division World Boxing Champion and one of the brightest lights of boxing in the 80’s, succumbed to mortality when he was shot dead while sitting with a friend inside a car in Puerto Rico in the manner of the old gunslingers of the Wild, Wild, West. New York City, Spanish Harlem in particular was his territory and he enjoyed quite a reign.
Rest in Peace Hector, it’s sad to see, such talent lost, so early. Hopefully some people, especially the youth, can learn a thing or two about Hectors life, such as making better decisions and having more discipline.
Hector, always with a light in his eyes, his trademark “MACHO” chain around his neck, and single curled lock of hair protruding towards the center of his forehead all spelled 80’s. It also implied a confidence as well as a happy-go-lucky personality that fueled his charisma but also took him to dark alleys that drained at his world-class skills.
Now, here we are and posthumously, Camacho will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. this Sunday on his first try via the modern fighter category. He joins two Latino legends in Lupe Pintor, former Bantamweight and Featherweight champion and Hilario Zapata, who ruled the Flyweight and Junior Flyweight divisions. His son, Hector Camacho Jr. followed his father into the sport. It would have been a great speech if Senior was still alive. He had seemed to turn a corner with a reality series and other projects that signified a return to better times just prior to his death.
Like those early days for this Puerto Rican born man who was raised in Spanish Harlem, bi-lingual, and using the New York City Golden Gloves as his calling card into the sport, he became a somebody. He was New York all the way. He was the first Latino boxer to achieve that upper-echelon status in the Sport of Kings with New York City as his adopted home, the source of an energy that never dissipated. He was accessible to the people and was often viewed in the streets of El Barrio, the home for many Puerto Ricans via migration from the 1950’s.
He seamlessly entered the professional ranks and with his lefty stance and superb speed of foot and fists, he was a fighter who would be King. He confirmed it by stopping Rafael (Bazooka) Limon for his first title at 130 pounds at the age of 21. When he defeated Jose Luis Ramirez for the 135-pound title, he proclaimed that he was the best in the world.
Watch 2 great videos on the “Macho Man”, the second one gets into his personal life (and demons) in addition to his talent and charisma.
It was a measure of his popularity that Hector sold out Madison Square Garden selling a passion play in 1986 in the form of a “Puerto Rican Civil War”, between himself, the Nuyo-Rican and Edwin Rosario, island based, one nationality, two cultural concepts at odds. Hector won, but a left-hook hurt him seriously for the first time. It was from that moment that he became a safety first fighter.
But he had the skills to rely on that alone. He stayed undefeated until 1991 when Greg Haugen outpointed him. Ironically, though Camacho later used Florida and Arizona as future training bases, New York was what he was identified with forever. He scored his biggest name wins over past-their-prime fighters like Ray Mancini (WBO 140 pound crown) and added two wins over Roberto Duran and a spectacular stoppage of a returning Sugar Ray Leonard.
He remained relevant in the 2000’s but lost to Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad, and Oscar De La Hoya, though holding his own early in all these fights. Though his time on earth ended suddenly, with the recent death of Muhammad Ali, it would be important to note that Hector Camacho did not suffer any boxer in history when it came to flamboyancy, personality, or ring greatness. His Hall of Fame credentials point loudly to this, and forever in boxing history lore.