Héctor “Macho” Camacho had a life surrounded by success, controversies and sadness.
His outsized, energetic personality, his flamboyant attire in the ring as well as his undeniable hand-speed and ability as a boxer placed him among the leading figures in the sport in the 1980s.
He won his first title in the super featherweight division the first time he fought in Puerto Rico by beating Mexican Rafael “Bazooka” Limón for the vacant World Boxing Council belt on August 7, 1983.
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Camacho was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, but was raised in Spanish Harlem where he grew up materially poor and engaged in the hustle of street life in ‘el Barrio’ until he became one of the most colorful figures in the sport of boxing, entertainment and pop culture until his violent death in 2012.
The colorful boxer won titles at 130 pounds, 135 pounds and 140 pounds, before moving up to the welterweight division, which proved problematic for Camacho as he faced three Hall of Famers in Julio César Chávez, Félix Trinidad and Óscar De La Hoya, whom he couldn’t outlast in the ring.
Besides Bazooka Limón, Macho Camacho defeated fighters of the stature of José Luis Ramírez and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini to win titles in the lightweight and junior welterweight division. In the latter part of his career, after a multi-year retirement in the 2000s, he faced legends like Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán, both past their prime years, whom he also defeated and sent into retirement.
Camacho had many legal problems in his youth. An invaluable helping hand from one of his high school teachers Pat Flannery who also became a father figure, led to an interest in boxing and away from repeating those missteps enroute toward multiple Golden Gloves championships in New York, while racking up an impressive amateur record of 96-4.
He would have been on the United States boxing team in the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow, but did not see that dream come true due to the boycott decreed by the government of then US President Jimmy Carter.
During his professional career, Camacho was a central figure in the rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico, thanks to his fights against Limón, Ramírez and Chávez.
¡Rivalidad ????! Un día como hoy, pero de 1985, El puertorriqueño Héctor “Macho” Camacho se impuso al mexicano José Luis Ramírez mediante decisión unánime en 12 rounds, para conquistar el campeonato mundial WBC de peso ligero ? pic.twitter.com/Nklczbh4F0
— World Boxing Council en Español (@wbcboxeo) August 10, 2021
Macho Camacho downfall and death
In a recent documentary, Camacho is seen struggling with his controlled substance problems, specifically pointed out by former CBS network broadcaster Tim Ryan, who hosted his first major televised fight in 1983 against John Montes in Alaska. In the interview, Ryan points out how the boxer was under the influence of drugs the night before the fight and with suicidal tendencies. Camacho knocked out Montes the next day in the first round.
At one point, his wife, Amy, recounts how a bodyguard was assigned to him to keep him out of trouble. Rudy González the bodyguard, remembered an occasion in which Camacho tried to carry a kilo of cocaine in his sports car across the Mexican border, and the agents allowed him to cross because he was Macho Camacho.
After retiring from boxing, Camacho was part of several television productions thanks to his charisma and personality, but little by little he was fading from public life and according to this same documentary, it was due to his inclination towards the use and distribution of drugs.
Camacho was shot on November 20, 2012 in Bayamon, passing away three days later. Hundreds of fans attended the public funeral in San Juan where many Puerto Rican boxing champions were present. Later, his body was taken to New York, where he was buried, but not before being carried in a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Harlem.