Ten-Count for Hector Camacho

By Robert Ecksel on November 24, 2012
Ten-Count for Hector Camacho
Camacho may not have died as he wished, but he lived as he desired. (Jim Lavrakas)

Camacho’s wildness was curtailed, or at least sublimated, when he took up boxing. The sport had saved another troubled boy’s life…

“I outshine the whole American nation. I am a legend, but people think I’m arrogant.”—Hector “Macho” Camacho

Certain ends seem less surprising than preordained, which makes them none the less tragic.

The deathwatch is over. Former multi-division champion Hector “Macho” Camacho was pronounced dead earlier today in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was 50.

Camacho was shot several times in the face and neck Tuesday night by an unknown assailant while sitting in a Ford Mustang outside a bar in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. He was rushed to Centro Medico, a trauma center in San Juan, where he was listed in stable but critical condition. The next day he suffered a heart attack and was put on life support. Doctors declared Camacho brain dead, and his family, after painstaking deliberation, decided that it was best to pull the plug.

Hector Camacho was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico on May 24, 1962. He was three years old when his mother left his father and moved with Hector and his sister to Spanish Harlem in New York City.

Always energetic, always rambunctious, always bridling at the yoke, Camacho had his first street fight at the age of nine. When he was 12 he joined the Spanish Kings, a notorious local gang. A savvy shoplifter who graduated to grand theft auto, by the time he was 15 he had been tossed out of six schools for fighting and jailed on Rikers Island.

Headed nowhere fast, Camacho was befriended by Robert Lee Velez, a 38-year-old former gang member who was a part-time trainer. Camacho’s wildness was curtailed, or at least sublimated, when he began to study boxing.

It had happened before and it had happened again. Boxing had saved another troubled boy’s life.

Camacho’s gifts were evident from the start. He was resilient. He was Indy 500 fast. And he loved to fight. Camacho won three New York Golden Gloves Championships. In 1978 he won 112 lb. Sub-Novice Championship. In 1979 he won the 118 lb. Open Championship. And in 1980 he defeated Tyrone Jackson to win the 119 lb. Open Championship.

Camacho turned pro on Sept. 12, 1980 at New York’s Felt Forum with a victory over 0-1-1 David Brown. Much like Bernard Hopkins when he was starting out, Camacho was convinced of his greatness long before anyone else had a clue, and he was eager to tell the world, often at top volume, to set the record straight.

Camacho went on a tear and won his next 37 fights without a loss. During that amazing run he stopped 50-12-2 Bazooka Limon in 1983 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico to win the vacant WBC super featherweight title. In 1985 he defeated 90-5 José Luis Ramírez win the WBC lightweight belt. And in 1989 Camacho defeated Ray Mancini, who was 29-3 at the time, to win a split decision and the vacant WBO junior welterweight title.

During his long and illustrious career, Camacho also fought Rafael Solis (1983), Freddie Roach (1985), Edwin Rosario and Cornelius Boza-Edwards (1986), Vinnie Pazienza (1990), Greg Haugen (twice in 1991), Julio César Chávez (1992), Felix Trinidad (1994), Roberto Duran (1996), and Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya (1997).

If that’s not a world-class résumé, I don’t know what is.

In addition to supreme boxing ability, Camacho was a showman par excellence. He was flamboyant. He was outrageous. He was an expert at putting noses out of joint. With his spit curl and flashy ring entrances, dressed more for Halloween than a prizefight, he was the quintessential wild and crazy guy whose wild ways and craziness were amplified by alcohol, cocaine and ecstasy. There were drug-fueled capers in his later years—misbegotten crimes like something out of The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight—that would be laughable if they weren’t felonious. And domestic and child abuse charges dogged him until the end.

Camacho had his last fight in May 2010 and was said to be contemplating the inevitable comeback. His record at the time of his passing was 79-6-3.

Macho Camacho may not have died as he wished, but he lived as his heart desired. He could be heavy-handed but was light on his feet, and the slow dance with danger was the dangerous dance he liked best of all.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Hector Camacho vs. Bazooka Limon 8/7/83 Rds. 1-3

Hector Camacho vs. Bazooka Limon 8/7/83 Rds. 4-5

Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Jose Luis Ramirez Part 1

Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Jose Luis Ramirez Part 2

Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Jose Luis Ramirez Part 3

Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Jose Luis Ramirez Part 4

Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini Rds 1-4

Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini Rds 5-8

Hector "Macho" Camacho vs Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini Rds 9-12

Hector Camacho Ray Mancini Post Fight

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  1. The Hammer 06:48am, 12/01/2012

    I was lucky enough to meet Hector while we were both in our teens and battling for Golden Glove titles in NYC - we were both selected to represent NYC in the Empire State Games in the summer of 78 - he was a driven teen looking to make the 80 Olympics (President Carter era we did not send a team to) it is a shame he will be known for the negative when he could have done so much more with his dynamic personally if he was handled with better care early in his professional career it could have made a difference The Hammer

  2. Mike Casey 12:23pm, 11/26/2012

    Ah, a most refreshing change of the landscape here. The sensible people have been left in.

  3. john coiley 03:24am, 11/25/2012

    a great loss it is, indeed. an amalgum of personalitieis and talents, literally shot to hell. or heaven, if that’s where he has ascended to…

  4. Dax Ferguson 12:55pm, 11/24/2012

    Joe, You left out Wilfred Benitez who won the world junior welterweight title from the great Antonio Cervantez at the unbelievable age of 17 1/2.

  5. Joe 10:14am, 11/24/2012

    Carlos Ortiz, Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez and Hector “Macho” Camacho. The best puertorican boxers ever.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo (aka) Gimpel 09:40am, 11/24/2012

    Robert Ecksel-Writers like you are lucky bucks….unlike boxers, even the great ones, you get to hone and improve your craft long after middle age. Which reminds me…I think it was on Johnny Carson’s show years ago…a guest said that he was middle aged….Johnny asked exactly how old the guest was…he answered “fifty”...Johnny replied “fifty? middle aged? how many people do you know who are 100?”

  7. the thresher 07:44am, 11/24/2012

    A marvelous piece, Robert. Thank you for a dignified approach without placing moral judgment on this man. It’s what he did in the RING that counts for me when I think of his legacy.

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