Second Photo credit to REUTERS/Alvin Baez
There are books you buy and books you read. Occasionally there are books that sit on a shelf that pour guilt on your conscience because you bought them to read and feel you ought to have done so by now. Indeed, there are books that were excitedly bought as you wanted to relive the stories they told as they were histories of glorious times and joyous occasions that now all you want to do is wallow in them vicariously.
One such book on my shelf is Four Kings by George Kimball. Describing a glorious time of 1980’s boxing where we salivated over Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns these were the canvas’ against which others for their weight divisions are now judged; it was a golden time and one to be treasured. Now we have young contenders who, if they do their work properly shall want to emulate and be the next version of these greats.
But I am a tad perverse.
The book has so many plaudits and much praise that if I were to try and tell the story of any of the 4 of these Titans of the ring I would have an incomparable job. My perversity leads to me to a man who is mentioned only 3 times in the book but fought 2 of these boxers in the final fights of their careers – Hector Camacho.
“Macho” Camacho is no longer with us but his legacy sits aside many others as being one to which other fighters could aspire. He fought 88 times with 6 losses, 3 draws and 79 wins. He fought Duran twice – and he beat him twice; he fought Sugar Ray Leonard, knocked him out and sent him into retirement; and he battled Julio Cesar Chavez, Freddie Roach and Oscar De La Hoya. He never got any of those fights because he was a bum. He managed 3 world titles and was around at a time when getting a world title fight would have been a hard slog never mind winning it!
Hailing from Puerto Rico, this was a guy who managed 3 New York Golden Gloves as an amateur before making his professional debut in 1980. He retired and had his last fight in 2010 so a remarkable 30 year career was achieved within those two dates.
His early life as the youngest of 5 kids, started in Puerto Rico before he was taken to New York by his mother. Trouble in later life was indicated early on as the young Camacho got increasingly into trouble. Of course, the old cliché then rang true as a language teacher in school put him under his wing and guided him into the disciplinary world of both karate and boxing.
Perhaps one of the reasons he has slipped off our radar is that his personal life was not a shining example to the young. In 1998 his wife got a restraining order against him as she alleged he had threatened her and one of their sons. In 2005 he got arrested for burglary. In 2012 he was on trial for charges laid that accused him of physically abusing his son. Before the trial, he was shot in Puerto Rico, back home in an incident that saw a childhood friend who was with him dead at the scene of the shooting and him slipping away 4 days later in hospital.
It is, however as a professional boxer that he built his fame and that was a stellar career. In 1983, 3 years after turning pro he got his first world championship – the WBC super featherweight title – when he beat Rafael Limon, who he stopped in the 5th round after Camacho managed to put him down in the 1st and 3rd.
He defended it once before, in 1985, he moved to lightweight and took the WBC championship from the Mexican Jose Luis Ramirez in Las Vegas on points; he had dropped Ramirez in the 3rd round.
In 1986 he was at Madison Square Garden, where he beat Edwin Rosario by split decision in a fight that showed he was not invincible. In particular, during the middle rounds, he had to literally hang on to Rosario and he got to hang on to his title.
Following another defense of his title it was time to move up again and at light welterweight he faced Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and won the WBO light welterweight title on points in 1989.
A brilliant decade for “Macho” and one that perhaps should have defined him but there was much more to come.
In 1991 he fought Greg Haugen and lost his world title. Haugen was found to have an “unidentified substance” in his urine so a rematch was ordered. Camacho’s first defeat had been controversial and in a close split decision when the rematch happened, he took his title back.
Then came the biggest fights of his career. He lost on points to Julio Cesar Chavez in 1992 giving Chavez the 82nd win of his career. In 1996 he beat Roberto Duran on points, in 1997 he beat Sugar Ray Leonard, and lost to Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC welterweight title – a title he had previously fought for and lost against Felix Trinidad.
The 90’s were not being the decade that the 80’s had been.
His last notable victory and his second over Duran happened on points in 2001. His last decade fighting included a successful win of the WBF international super welterweight crown but apart from that there were long periods of inactivity including a draw and loss in his final 2 fights that led him to hang things up for good.
Retirement brought him an opportunity to become much more of a media personality and back home a number of appearances on Reality TV and musical numbers and comedy sketches heightened his popularity.
Having such a figure involved or even just associated with criminal activity is a shame but hardly surprising. Camacho was paid handsomely for hitting people in the face. His early life was troubled but here was a guy who at least, tried to use discipline to make his way in life. That he clearly fell a little short should be seen in the context of those charges and allegations and not under the terms of his boxing career. Those terms are for sporting aficionados like me to salivate over and wish we had seen more of the guy from Puerto Rico who shared the ring with greats but fell off the Olympian mound because he was flawed and human.
Such was his fame, he lay in state for 2 days in San Juan before he was sent home to New York for burial.
And now I really need to read that book!Contact the Feature Writers