Hector Macho Camacho: Remembering Legacy of Boxing Champion

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

1 Mar 1997:  Hector 'Macho' Camacho heads toward the ring for a bout against Sugar Ray Leonard in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  Camacho won the fight with a TKO in the fifth round. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello  /Allsport
Al Bello/Getty Images

There are any number of ways to define a legacy. For athletes, we tend to remember sporting achievements primarily before discussing how that man or woman influenced and changed the sport they performed in. 

It's a narrow view on a person's life, of course, so we then we turn to that athlete's life off of the field, court or ring, comparing good deeds to bad, examining personality traits and turning to the memories of those he or she held close.

"What did that life mean?" we ask, before attempting to provide an answer.

When remembering Hector "Macho" Camacho, it's impossible to isolate any one aspect of his career or life. They all blended together to form a man who lived like he boxed, combining pure talent with startling lapses in judgment.

He was aggressive and brash, but he also had a big heart. He was a champion, but he was also his own worst enemy. He too often lived in the ring and fought in his life. His personality was as big as his talent. His lows were as troubling as his highs were inspiring.

His life was the spectrum. But what did his life mean?

As a boxer, Camacho achieved greatness. He left the ring in 2010 after finishing his career with a record of 79-6-3 compiled over three decades. He won the WBO Light Welterweight championship belt and WBC Lightweight and Super Featherweight belts.

And he didn't shy away from top competition.

He beat Roberto Durán twice, knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard and fought Julio César Chávez, Félix Trinidad and Oscar de la Hoya. He went toe to toe with some of the top fighters of his generation.

His style was an aggressive, pressing one, and attacking his opponent often came at the expense of protecting himself. Even in victory, he was often battered, having left himself vulnerable to taking a punishment.

Really, he lived his life the same way.

If you want to know about Camacho's public persona, well, this excerpt from Jeff Miller of The Ocean County Register should tell you all you need to know in that regard

This was a man who once had 15 cars but no driver's license. He was a singer and a dancer, a regular on Puerto Rican television, where he would lean into the camera and proclaim, "I'm to boxing what Michael Jackson is to music."

He entered the ring in sequins and feathers, dressed at various times as a fireman, a Trojan or a gladiator. Once, he entered wearing a diaper. He dressed in capes and fur-trimmed hats. He liked to have a single curl of hair decorating his forehead.

If you want to know more about Camacho's personal and legal troubles, Miller's article is delves into them as well. His personal life was often dark, fraught with drug use, domestic violence, arrests, money spent lavishly and poor judgement. His following quote to Miller from a few years back probably says it all:

"I had the bachelor life with five or six hundred women and the money and the fame," he said that day. "But part of that was trouble. I tried to be a fighter, a lover and a fly guy. I'm lucky, really, to be alive the way I've lived. Most people probably would have been shot up in the street or be in jail. Or both."

But there was more than that. He was also a man described by many as one with a big heart, a good person who made poor decisions and got in his own way. 

That's how former featherweight champion Juan Laporte remembered him (from the Associated Press via ESPN):

[He] described Camacho as "like a little brother who was always getting into trouble," but otherwise combined a friendly nature with a powerful jab.

"He's a good human being, a good-hearted person," Laporte said as he waited with other friends and members of the boxer's family outside the hospital in San Juan after the shooting. "A lot of people think of him as a cocky person but that was his motto ... Inside he was just a kid looking for something."

Ultimately, the former champion was murdered. He was taken off of life support on Saturday after being declared brain dead by doctors. He was shot while sitting in a car in Puerto Rico with his friend, and authorities found cocaine in the vehicle.

It was an abrupt and tragic ending to a life that was both vibrant and dark. It left us both questions and reminders of the worst parts of the man. It came too soon.

But Camacho's life certainly meant something. It showed that a Puerto Rican immigrant who grew up in Spanish Harlem could achieve astonishing things in life. It showed us a great boxer, and it showed us a man who was always fighting demons who fired off better jabs.

And it showed us an original personality that he often couldn't control. It was his most memorable trait and also his least admirable one.

For better or worse, Camacho fought hard. And for better or worse, he seemed to enjoy the fight.


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