The boxing world is saddened today as we have lost another of our own—Puerto Rican boxing star Hector "Macho" Camacho.
Camacho, 50, was shot and died of complications today, in his native Puerto Rico, when his family elected to remove him from life support after doctors declared him brain dead (via ESPN). It was a tragic end for a fighter who made a career out of being flashy and lived his life in the fast lane.
And it's another sobering reminder that when you live by the sword, you often die by it as well.
His struggles with drugs and alcohol were well publicized and a part of the legend of the man. While he was far from perfect, in the ring or out, his place in the lore of the sport is unquestioned.
In many ways he set the tone for modern boxing's era of flamboyant, brash competitors, a tradition that has been carried on by many notable fighters. He helped usher in a period in boxing in which being flashy and brash were not only acceptable, but the norm.
In many ways this is what defines his legacy. He was more than a boxer. He was a true entertainer, in every facet of the word. He loved his job, and he loved to give fans everything he had, every time he entered the ring.
From his over-the-top ring entrances to his crazy in-ring attire and his in-ring antics, there was nothing about Hector Camacho that wasn't loud and sometimes obnoxious.
But that's why the fans loved, or hated him, and truthfully it didn't matter to him, as long as he put on a good show.
In a legendary and often overlooked career, he accumulated an impressive record of 79-6-3 with 38 knockouts and several high-profile wins. He would win four world championships in three weight divisions and challenge for several more.
He had a personality made for boxing and was the consummate showman, often entering the ring in interesting and sometimes ludicrous costumes, including once in full Roman-soldier regalia.
He talked smack, backed it up more often than not, and had a glowing personality that drew people to him and to his fights. His antics were legendary, and had he been at his peak in today's boxing world, there is no doubt he would have been a huge star.
He even coined his own catchphrase, often proudly declaring to his fans: "What time is it? It's Macho Time!"
It seems that when people talk of Camacho, and we're sure to see this a lot in the coming days, they allow his out of ring pursuits, and his in-ring showmanship to obscure his boxing ability.
He was certainly a colorful character, but he was also a very good fighter.
While there is certain to be debate, there should be absolutely no doubt about it: Macho Camacho is a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest fighters ever to carry on the rich fighting tradition of his homeland.
You could easily argue that Camacho belongs in the discussion amongst the greatest fighters ever to come from Puerto Rico. He's without a doubt in the top five, behind Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Vazquez and probably Miguel Cotto.
And that's nothing to dismiss, given the number of excellent fighters the islands have produced over the years.
He wasn't the most talented fighter, but he was one of the quickest boxers ever to step foot into a ring. At his peak he was very difficult to hit with a clean shot due to his speed and movement.
His resume of fights reads like a who's who. Win or lose you can only say that Camacho fought virtually every big name of his era and most of them at their peaks.
You see, Macho wasn't just a nickname, it was truly who the man was inside the boxing ring. He had one of the biggest hearts of any fighter you'll ever see. He never quit and soldiered on against long odds even when he was outclassed.
Camacho was born in Bayoman, Puerto Rico, but his family soon moved to the Harlem section of New York City. As would be a pattern in his later life, Camacho often ended up in trouble, getting into fights and ending up in a NYC jail at the age of 15.
It was here that Camacho took up the sport of boxing, mainly to keep out of trouble, and had a successful amateur career, winning three New York Golden Gloves titles.
As a professional "Macho" Camacho won his first 21 fights, leading to his first world-title bout, for the vacant WBC super-featherweight crown. The story goes that the champion, Bobby Chacon, had no interest in going to Puerto Rico to defend his title.
Instead the WBC declared it vacant, and Camacho dominated Rafael "Bazooka" Limon, stopping him in the fifth round to claim the first of his four world championships.
Instead of staying at 126 pounds, the Puerto Rican sensation quickly jumped up to lightweight, where he defeated Jose Luis Ramirez with ease for the WBC title and then successfully defended against countryman Edwin Rosario in a highly controversial affair.
At junior welterweight, a still-undefeated Camacho captured his third world championship with a split-decision victory over Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini.
He would ultimately lose the belt in controversial fashion to Greg Haugen, the first defeat of his career, and later regain it in the rematch
It would prove to be his final world-championship win.
This set the stage for a superfight and the fight that I can honestly say sparked my interest in boxing, a match with undefeated Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez.
The hype for the fight was something out of a Hollywood movie, with the brash Camacho carrying most of the water and allowing Chavez to stay reserved.
The fight was very one sided, with Chavez coming out on top with an easy, unanimous decision win.
Chavez pressured Camacho for virtually every second of the 12 rounds and gave him the first decisive loss of his career.
Despite being thoroughly outclassed, Camacho never quit. With his face bloodied and bruised, he stood with Chavez and traded in the final rounds, choosing to go out on his sword rather than with a whimper.
After the defeat to Chavez, Camacho would twice more challenge for world titles—losing unanimous decisions to both Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya.
Clearly at the tail end of his career by this point, he would still score several notable wins—over legends Roberto Duran, twice by decision, and Sugar Ray Leonard by knockout.
It is worth noting that both fighters were well past their bests at the times of the bouts.
During his long career, Camacho accumulated wins over an impressive array of names, including Limon, Ramirez, Freddie Roach, Rosario, Mancini, Vinny Pazienza, Haugen, Duran and Leonard.
While we sit today in mourning for the man they called Macho, we remember his legacy and all the great moments he gave to us, the fans and followers of the sport.
Rest in peace, Macho. I just wish we had appreciated your greatness more before it was too late.
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