By Jackie Kallen
I am sitting here stunned. It has been quite a year of losses for the boxing world. All have touched me personally. Now, as Hector “Macho” Camacho lies in critical condition in a hospital in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, I have that sick feeling again. After what appears to be a random shooting as Camacho drove in a car with a friend, he is fighting for his life. His friend, the driver, did not survive.
I have known the popular 50 year-old southpaw since he turned pro in 1980 in New York. I remember the first time I saw him fight. He fought then-undefeated Melvin Paul in Atlantic City in 1982. He thoroughly out-boxed Paul and won an easy decision. He was dazzling. The fans loved his outrageous ring attire and his cocky attitude.
Hector has always had a passion for cars. He was training in Detroit back in the early 1980s and I had just bought a British sports car called a Panther. It was a sleek roadster and there wasn’t another one like it in the city. I had a few fighters over for a Sunday barbecue and Hector fell in love with the car. He asked if he could take it for a ride around the block. I nervously agreed.
Three and-a-half hours later I had to call the police. Hector had not returned with the car, hadn’t called, and was nowhere to be found. He was not familiar with my neighborhood and I was afraid he had gotten lost. Dinner had been over for two hours and I had no idea where Hector (and my car) were.
All of a sudden, as I was making out a police report, he came pulling up. Was he apologetic? Did he try to explain his long absence? Nope. He just jumped out, said “Thanks” and asked “Is there any food left?” Camacho was always a character.
In 1983 he won the vacant WBC Super Featherweight title by stopping Rafael Limon in the fifth round. He went on to win titles as a lightweight, a Super Lightweight, a welterweight, a Junior Middleweight and a middleweight.
He went on to beat legends like Sugar Ray Leonard, Ray Mancini, Vinny Pazienza and Cornelius Boza Edwards.
In 2001 he weighed in at a whopping 159 pounds when he fought (and beat) Roberto Duran in Denver for the NBA belt. That was to be his last impressive win. He retired in 2010 after losing to lightly-regarded Saul Duran, a journeyman with a record of 36-16-2. He had only fought a dozen times in a decade.
Always colorful–in and out of the ring–Camacho has had his share of brushes with there law involving drugs, domestic violence, burglary and driving violations. While still a teenager, Camacho served several months in a New York prison for car theft.
But at a time like this, all we can do–as boxing fans–is to pray for his recovery. Reports claim that he was shot several times in the face and neck. It is far too early to guess whether he will survive or whether or not he will ever fully recover. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen