by Roger Zotti
Former three-division world boxing champion Hector “Macho” Camacho, 50, died on November 24, in a San Juan Hospital. On November 20 Camacho was sitting in the passenger seat of a Ford Mustang parked in front of a bar in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the fighter’s hometown, when he was shot in the jaw by a gunman. Two days later Camacho was declared clinically brain dead. After suffering a heart attack, he was removed from life support Saturday morning. The car’s driver, 49-year-old Adrian Mojica Moreno, was also shot and killed. Police found nine small packets of cocaine in his pocket and an open packet inside the automobile.
A southpaw, Camacho, who began his professional boxing career in 1982 and retired in 2010, fought some of the best fighters of his era. His record was an impressive 79-6-3 (38 KO). Inside the ring Camacho, a compactly built counterpuncher with amazing foot and hand speed, was often attired in outrageous costumes that the entertainer Cher would envy. A spit curl dangling over his forehead, he would energetically enter the ring attired as an American Indian or a Roman gladiator. There were times when he sported a loincloth and, later, a dress.
New York Daily News columnist Tim Smith quotes former welterweight and middleweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard (whose ring comeback was ended when Camacho stopped him in the fifth round in 1997) as saying, “I called him the Liberace of boxing….I loved it because you always wondered, ‘What is he going to wear next?’… Hector’s toughest fights were always outside the ring. Hector’s persona was that he was always staring death in the face.”
Camacho was born in Bayamon, on May 24, 1962. His family moved to Spanish Harlem when he was an infant. He began boxing at age eleven and soon won three Daily News Golden Gloves titles (1978-80). As a teenager he was in constant trouble with the law. Smith writes: “Like many of New York’s wayward kids in those days, he gravitated to boxing as a means of channelling his aggression. He was an instant star in the ring. Unfortunately he never escaped the demons that plagued him outside it.”
Recently professional boxing has also been hit hard with the deaths of Emanuel Steward and former welterweight and middleweight champion Carmen Basilio. Steward, 68, was called “the Godfather of Detroit boxing.” One of the best corner men in the business, among the fighters he has worked with were middleweight champion Thomas Hearns, former heavyweight titleholder Lennox Lewis, and current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
The crowd-pleasing Basilio, 85, became welterweight champion in 1955 and middleweight champion in 1957. The late Angelo Dundee, corner man of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, once said of Basilio, for whom he was also a corner man, “You could say boxers are rare people, and Carmen Basilio is the rarest of boxers… a standup guy who would outwork anybody to achieve his goal.”
Travel well: Hector Camacho, Emanuel Steward, and Carmen Basilio.