SPANISH HARLEM TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HECTOR CAMACHO

Héctor Luís Camacho Matías’ desire to fight came not only from boxing but from life in general, born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico he moved to Spanish Harlem in New York a place synonymous for drugs and crime both which became a past time in Hector’s roller coaster of a life.

Looking like an extra from the movie Scarface, Hector with an open shirt, draped in gold with a spit curl always falling down his forehead was as flamboyant as any fighter in the history of boxing whether it be in the ring or out of it, often because of this image mixed with his outspokenness he drew a line in the sand of peoples perceptions of him, you either loved him or hated him but doubt you will ever safely say his journey was a boring one.

Coming from a decorated amateur career, Hector made his way to the pro circuit in the 1980’s where his fast hands mixed with fancy footwork had more than a few clambering over this young Puerto Rican who was a mainstay for boxing’s famous Friday night fights series.

Earning more than a few plaudits along the way plus an NABF title for good measure he made it to the world stage where awaiting him was the winner from Limon v Chacon.

It was in 1983 that Hector had elevated himself to a shot at the vacant WBC Super Featherweight title, greeting him in his first foray was the brilliant Rafael Limon although it was originally scheduled to be Bobby Chacon but the latter refused the bout which would end up stripping him of his title making it vacant.

The chance in the limelight was not something that Hector shied away from, rising to the occasion on the 7th August in his first major world title fight, he knocked down the former two-time world champion in each of the first and third rounds before stopping him in the fifth in an emphatic display.

It was a display that was expected from the more knowledgeable observer some of which had taken to calling him “The Lightweight Ali” although the biggest compliment came from Budd Schulberg who said Camacho was the best Super Featherweight he had ever seen, some praise considering Schulberg had over eight decades of boxing knowledge to call upon.

Over the next eight years, Camacho cemented that commendation with 16 straight wins whilst capturing both the Lightweight and Light Welterweight titles to add to his already vast collection before tasting his first defeat to the hands of Greg Haugen, a defeat which he would avenge a few months later.

The late great Bert Sugar commented on Camacho’s flamboyance by saying “He dressed like Tarzan, he fought like Jane” referring to his lack of firepower and his exuberance for fashionable statements.

Two things that Hector could be guilty of but one thing he didn’t was to duck opposition, with a glimpse of his record throwing up names such as Oscar De La Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez and Felix Trinidad just to name but a few, Ok so people will throw in the fact that each of those times he came up short but what’s remarkable is the fact that Hector was never stopped, not once in 88 contests which included the hard hitters I already mentioned.

Camacho in a career which spanned 30 Years had beat the likes of Roberto Duran, permanently retiring Sugar Ray Leonard where all fights were rather insignificant at the time, still just shy of his 48th birthday he continued until 2010 leaving the squared circle with a remarkable record of 79-6-3.

Away from boxing Hector’s life like his spit curl had always threatened to spiral out of control with constant news of drug abuse plus more than a few criminal activities, the cracks in the road which he had stepped over for so long had now devoured him.

It was said that Hector would often travel to different cities/towns to be by himself with his thoughts as depression started to set in. To combat this he used cocaine which became a vicious cycle that showed no signs of slowing, a toxic path which had him staring into the abyss.

Women, Drugs and Alcohol were aplenty with each taking their toll. He thrived on the playboy lifestyle he had created for himself, a lifestyle which would soon come crashing down around him.

in 2005 he was arrested for burglary at an electrical goods store, subsequently pleading guilty of being under the influence when caught with Ecstasy on his person, he was sentenced to 7 years in prison but a lenient judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence, handing Camacho probation. He served two weeks in jail after violating that particular probation.

His life was caught in the eye of the storm, in both 2011 & 2012 he was shot at / shot, first in 2011 where he was shot at without injury after a failed carjacking, the following year he wouldn’t be so lucky after being shot in the chin during a drive-by.

His friend fared worse dying at the scene. Hector with the whole of Puerto Rico sending out their prayers lay on life support for three days, he lived life like his hand speed, fast.

Unfortunately this was a fight where he wasn’t able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, the magic had diminished, No brain activity was recorded during the three days he lived through an oxygen tube, his family with a heavy heart decided to press the switch as the country mourned one of their top 5 greatest fighters of all time.

He once told reporters “One day the light goes dead and people forget you.” – well, the light may have extinguished but his legacy shines on as a beacon to one of Puerto Rico’s greatest, Hector “Macho” Camacho you will never be forgotten.