Published November 24, 2012
Even in a sport driven by larger-than-life personalities, former world champion boxer Héctor “Macho” Camacho stood out.
Camacho died Saturday after the decision was made to take him off of life support. The fighter was declared brain dead on Wednesday morning, hours after being shot in the head and neck.
Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Camacho was raised in East Harlem, N.Y., where he took up the sport that would take him to the top. His brash personality and cocky demeanor made him both a favorite for fight fans to root for and against.
Camacho was talented. Although he never saw the level of success that has defined the greatest of the greats, many boxing fans and experts have long believed the former world champion deserves a spot in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Considered one of the best Puerto Rican boxers in history, Camacho held WBC and WBO titles in the featherweight, lightweight and light welterweight titles. He went 79-6-3 with 38 knockouts over his 30-year career. His lengthy list of opponents included Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya, Ray Mancini, Sugar Ray Leonard and Felix Trinidad.
Camacho was entertaining. In a sport known for swagger, the man known as “Macho” had more swagger than any other fighter around at one time. Yes, boxing is about the actual fight itself, but on the professional level, the sport is also about the spectacle. There were the costumes – oh, the costumes – from firefighter to Indian chief to Roman gladiator. There were the capes and loincloth shorts. His oversized gold chain necklace that spelled out his nickname and weighed probably as much as any of his title belts.
Camacho was unpredictable. He was not a fighter who spoke in clichéd, been-there, heard-that-sound bites. The four-time titleholder also could be counted on to liven up any news conference, to deliver something memorable in any interview. He was not a man for the politically correct.
In fact, Camacho was nothing if not controversial. But the history of boxing is filled with polarizing characters. Those storylines are the ones that help sell the sport. And Camacho did his part.
Like many boxers, Camacho refused to give up the sport, even as he passed his prime. He returned to the ring over and over again. Even upon his death at age 50, Camacho was reportedly considering another comeback. His last professional fight came in 2010.
Camacho struggled with his own shortcomings -- and certainly there were many -- but as the boxing world and those who knew him mourn his loss, Camacho’s contribution to the sport and the legacy he leaves should not be overlooked.