Hector ‘Macho’ Camacho Dead at 50

Lou Eisen / November 29, 2012 - 5:04pm

Fans, friends and family came together to say goodbye to former three-time world boxing champion, Hector “Macho” Camacho this past Tuesday in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Camacho’s family opted to have an open casket funeral, allowing the slain “Macho Man” to enjoy one last moment in public with his fans before he was laid to rest forever.

Camacho’s coffin was draped with a Puerto Rican flag. Camacho’s mother, Maria Matias gently caressed her deceased son’s face as she exclaimed softly several times, “They killed him. They killed my son.” Her crying could be heard throughout the entire service.

Hector “Macho” Camacho, one of boxing’s all-time greatest champions and performers, and a hero to his Puerto Rican countrymen, was shot in Bayamón, Puerto Rico last Tuesday, November 20th while sitting in his Ford Mustang, which was parked outside a local bar that was known to be a hub for illegal drug activity. Three days later the doctors declared Camacho brain dead and, at the request of his family, removed him from life support. At the time of his shooting, Camacho’s Ford Mustang was parked in one of Bayamón’s most dangerous areas. Random gun violence and murder in that specific area of Bayamón are the norm and not the exception.

Camacho was the victim of a drive-by shooting, which ultimately cost him his life. One can only wonder why Camacho was in such an area to begin with. Camacho was addicted to cocaine and his addiction ended up costing him his life. The assailants fired a fusillade of bullets at Camacho’s car.  One bullet pierced Camacho’s neck, severing two vertebrae in his spinal column. Another bullet hit his jaw and was deflected into his right shoulder. Doctors said that Camacho had an unusually strong jaw but then again, his millions of fans could have told you that.

Camacho was rushed to the Rio Piedras Medical Center in San Juan, where he suffered a massive heart attack. Dr. Ernesto Torres was able to revive Camacho with a combination of drugs and open heart massage. However, the effects of a massive heart attack and the wounds suffered from the shooting proved to be just too much for Camacho’s body to overcome. He was declared brain dead the very next day. Doctors said that if Camacho had survived, he most likely would have been paralyzed.

The Camacho family waited for Hector’s two sons and other relatives to gather at his bedside in the hospital to say goodbye to the fallen champion one last time. The life support was removed from the former champion this past Sunday. He succumbed to his injuries shortly after.

Camacho had four children from various relationships in his life. His eldest son, Hector “Machito” Camacho Jr. was also a boxer. His other kids were Justin, Christian and Taylor. They were all with him when he was taken off life support. It is when you look at Camacho’s children that the enormity of the tragedy really hits home. Boxing lost one it’s brightest leading lights but his children lost their father and no video reel of career highlights can ever fill that void.

Police announced that the driver of Camacho’s car, Alberto Mojica Moreno, was shot dead at the scene. He was 49 years of age and a longtime friend of Camacho’s. The SUV that fired the shots at Camacho’s vehicle had two men in it, one of who has been arrested but not yet charged. No one at this point in time has been formally charged with murdering Camacho.

Camacho was born on May 24, 1962 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico to parents Hector Luis Camacho and Maria Matias. He was the youngest of five siblings, including his three sisters, Raquel, Estrella and Esperanza. His father named him “Macho,” to build up his confidence, as he was the runt of the litter, so to speak. When he was still a young child, his family left Bayamón behind for Spanish Harlem in New York.  Camacho got into a lot of trouble as a teenager and was jailed at the age of 15. He excelled at both boxing and karate as a teenager and decided to stick with boxing. He was one of the finest amateur boxers ever to come out of the United States.

Camacho’s pro career was equally as great as his amateur career. Boxing fans and TV networks could never get enough of him.  Even in death, television networks from all over the world jostled with each other to film his open casket and the crowd of mourners who were there to see their hero one last time.

For the boxing world, the murder of Camacho has proven to be almost too much to bear. Boxing fans will never forget Camacho’s sparkling eyes and his boyish smile. He seemed to always have a look on his face of a child who has just been caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar. Camacho was a born entertainer and he truly enjoyed bringing joy and laughter to his fans with his larger than life antics both in and out of the prize ring. Camacho always wanted his fans to walk away after one of his fight’s feeling that they had received fair value for their money.

As the service got underway, hundreds of mourners spontaneously stood up and began clapping. One of the mourners in the crowd yelled out “What time is it?” The crowd then responded, “It’s Macho Time!” Camacho was held in such high regard in the boxing world that 30 former and current world champions were in attendance at his funeral. Many of Camacho’s fans were so stunned and outraged to hear of his death that they threatened various news stations for even reporting the news of his passing.

A large screen above Camacho’s casket showed clips of some of his greatest ring moments and fights. Camacho’s career record was an impressive 79-6-3 with 38 wins coming by way of knockout. Camacho was a boxer/puncher in the beginning of his career. He dazzled fight fans with his blazing hand speed and underrated power.  Camacho was known for being one of boxing’s best finishers. When he had an opponent hurt, he knew exactly what to do to get them out of there in a hurry. He was special in the ring. He knew it and so did his peers.

Police had this to say about Camacho’s driver and close friend, Mojica, “Mojica had nine small bags of cocaine in his pocket and a 10th bag was found open in the car.” Camacho was known to have had a long time debilitating addiction to drugs, in particular cocaine. He also liked to drink and he was well known for feeding both addictions at the same time. Like many boxers who achieve world championship success at a very young age, Camacho always had an aura of invincibility around him. He truly believed that nothing could take him down. Oh how wrong he was.

Boxing insiders are left to contemplate now how much greater Camacho could have been if he had managed to stay clean during his entire career. Camacho’s problems with drugs and alcohol were often topics of discussion for both his fans and boxing pundits alike.

Camacho only stood about 5’6 1/2 inches tall but his phenomenal ring skills and his astounding ability to improvise during battle helped him rise to the very top rung of the boxing world. Camacho stood out in boxing in a way that statistics are not able to describe. Camacho never ducked an opponent during his entire career. He was always willing to accommodate any fighter, regardless of their status or ability that wanted to face him in the ring. His answer to every fistic challenge was always the same, “Let’s do it!”

During his long and storied career, Camacho held three world titles. The first title he captured was the then vacant WBC super featherweight world title from Rafael “Bazooka” Limon by way of a fifth round knockout at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on August 7th, 1983. He then moved up a weight class to lightweight where he won the WBC world lightweight championship by beating the tough and durable Mexican world champion Jose Luis Ramirez in 12 rounds by unanimous decision at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 10th, 1985.

Camacho went on to win the vacant WBO light welterweight world title from Ray Mancini at the        Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nevada on March 6th, 1989. Camacho held other lesser, lightly regarded world titles from minor sanctioning organizations.

Camacho had a unique ability to get under an opponent’s skin and put them off their game. He was a master at playing head games with his various foes, always getting them to start doubting themselves before they ever stepped into the ring to face the “Macho Man.” Camacho irritated retired former world lightweight champion, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini to such an extent that he temporarily ended his comfortable retirement for one more fight – against Camacho.

Camacho won a hard fought split decision over Mancini to capture the vacant WBO light-welterweight crown. Camacho scored victories over the best fighters of his day, such as Rafael Solis, Greg Haugen (twice), Freddie Roach, Edwin Rosario, Howard Davis Jr, Vinny Pazienza and Tony Baltazar.

Camacho’s most controversial victory came over the brilliant Edwin Rosario in defense of his WBC lightweight world title. The fight took place at Madison Square Garden in 1986. Every one in attendance that night, including all those on media row thought that Rosario had scored a lop-sided unanimous decision over Camacho and that the announcement of the decision was just a formality. The wave of stunned silence that greeted the announcement of a Camacho victory was absolutely deafening.

The Rosario fight had a very profound impact on Camacho’s boxing career. Never again would he stand toe-to-toe with another fighter in the ring and trade shots. He became a strictly defense first type of fighter, content to win his fights by boring decisions rather than going for the more exciting kayo victories. Camacho no longer cared what the audience thought of his more sedate ring style. They weren’t the ones in the ring risking their lives.

Camacho also convinced Sugar Ray Leonard to come out of retirement to fight him. It was a decision Leonard would later call, “Stupid and regrettable.”  Leonard was a spent fighter by then and Camacho had no trouble scoring a TKO over a hapless and helpless Leonard in five rounds on March 1st, 1997 at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Camacho’s last fight was in 2010 and his last ring victory occurred in 2008.

The great irony about Hector “Macho” Camacho is, that if he had been as defensive in his personal life as he was in the ring, he would still be here to entertain us today.