Tag Archives: Boxing

“Macho” Camacho Dies at 50

Former three division champion is shot to death in Puerto Rico.

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.

Tribute to a Boxing Champion

By Roger Zotti

Justina Ihetu, author of "In Africa's Honor."

Justina Ihetu, daughter of former world middleweight and light heavyweight champion Dick Tiger, has written a skillfully constructed, inspiring, and insightful book titled “In Africa’s Honor” (iUniverse). “It puts boxing history relating to Africa into perspective,” she tells us, “and spotlights the first championship fight on African soil, occurring eleven years before the more popular ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ battle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.”

A man of dignity and courage, Tiger was an aggressive, crowd-pleasing boxer. Born in 1929, he died in 1971. He began boxing in 1955, retiring in 1970 with a record of 60-19-3 (27 KO).  One of the most formidable fighters of his talent-rich era, Tiger never ducked a worthy opponent, nor did he ever take a backward step. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

Justina remarks that “revisiting and pondering over my father’s early years as a young adult when he was struggling to make a living, under the most excruciating circumstances, and without any kind of support,” proved gratifying because “against all odds, he was able to turn the deficits of his environment into benefits and eventually he gave back to his community: When his country was embroiled in a civil war, he did not turn his back on it, but became a voice for the distressed during the Nigerian/Biafran war.”

At the same time, she admits keeping her emotions in check was difficult: “Despite his reputation in his beloved Nigeria, the country is devoid of any visual representations or memorials of his remarkable boxing accomplishments. His stand against injustice and his involvement in the Civil War in Nigeria, I’m afraid, may have for decades cost him his rightful place in Nigeria’s sports history.  I believe that were he given another chance, he would do exactly the same thing—and that’s the mark of a true hero.”

Because her father “is unsung and almost forgotten,” Justina asserts, her goal was “to keep his story fresh and relevant, especially to the younger generation who had not the privilege of knowing about the first boxing championship held in Africa, or about Africa’s greatest boxer.” The motivating technique she used—and it worked—was writing “In Africa’s Honor” in play form.

The championship bout between Tiger and Gene Fullmer—the third meeting between them—took place August 10, 1963, at Liberty Stadium in Ibadan, Nigeria. Tiger emerged victorious when the West Jordan, Utah warrior was unable to answer the bell for the eighth round. “If you have to lose, it’s a pleasure to lose your championship to a great fighter, sportsman, and gentleman like Dick Tiger,” the gracious Fullmer said after the fight.

Asked what she hopes readers take away from “In Africa’s Honor,” Justina’s answer is memorable: “It is the determination to accomplish their goals in life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, race, or creed. As with Dick Tiger, their circumstances should not become an impediment to their growth and success in life but should, instead, compel them to persevere and rise about their circumstances.”