By Chris Cella
This past November, boxing lost one of its most decorated champions when Hector Camacho perished well before his time. From 1983 to 2001, Macho Camacho held titles in seven weight classes, beginning as a super featherweight and closing the show in the super middleweight division.
Camacho fought in a time when boxing was about being the better man in the ring on any given night, not about endorsement deals, million dollar paydays and notoriety. He fought for himself, and for his fans, and went above and beyond, putting on a show each time he stepped between the ropes. He was one of the original fighters to bring pizazz and personality into the ring each night he laced up the gloves; some can say he was the Floyd Mayweather Jr. before there was a Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Camacho was a pugilist who paved the way for modern fighters, and in addition to the legacy that will be honored and respected for as long as two warriors battle it out in the squared circle, his memory will now live on through his son Hector Camacho Jr.
Camacho Jr. (54-5-1, 29 KO) has become a veteran of the sport at the age of 34. Having made his professional debut in 1996, Camacho Jr. has had a roller coaster of a boxing career, including winning a handful of titles but at the same time falling short in fights where he should have exited the ring with his hand raised.
About the passing of his father, Camacho shared with Boxing Insider: “No fighter in my era or his era was ever like him. The man had showmanship. He was the whole package. He could fight. If Macho Camacho was in his prime today fighting, imagine the money he would make. I mean look at what he left behind. When he passed, it was worldwide news; in every major newspaper and news network across the world. All over the globe people mourned his death. The attention and love we received all over the world was overwhelming. It means a lot.
“It took his death to realize what kind of impact he had on the sport of boxing. Boxing fans saw a man who was a devastating fighter between the ropes, but he was such a tremendous father and a man. He instilled in me and taught me how to be a man; to keep your word, be humble and not to lie. Although he was crazy as shit, he was a very humble person. He never lied, and didn’t disrespect anybody. He honored his mother and was just a good man. It’s a value he taught me to live by.
“Throughout my life, I saw the way that he carried himself inside and out of the ring, and dealt with the fame. I love that about him, and that’s what I take for my own character. I learned so much from him.”
Next month, February 9 at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, Camacho Jr. makes his return to the ring against Dmitriy Salita (35-1-1, 18 KO) following a disappointing knockout loss against up-and-coming light middleweight prospect Luis Grajeda last July. Following the loss, critics argued Camacho Jr. was washed up and done, but the former champion has a new drive within him that he expects to carry him to making a title run in 2013.
“My father’s death really woke me up,” Camacho Jr. commented about his new motivation to fight.
“It gave me extra drive, extra motivation. I can remember when my pops was alive and I was training half-ass and he would yell at me, ‘what are you doing training half ass? You’re my kid.’ I thank God for this opportunity and second chance. There are things in my boxing career that I didn’t expect. So many fighters would love the opportunities that I was given, but there were times that I didn’t take things so seriously as I should have. Right now I thank God and Golden Boy and my father for this opportunity. I know this fight came in line because of him, and I will do him proud.
“On Showtime, in Brooklyn, it doesn’t get any better than this. All the things I have messed up through my career . . . this is my redemption. For a while I didn’t take boxing seriously. There were a handful of fights I wouldn’t train hard for. I blamed boxing for not getting the fights I wanted, and I didn’t train hard because I wasn’t fighting the big names I wanted. But now this is my time. I am ready. It is Macho time.”
Camacho Jr. was adamant that the passing of his father—the man he looked up to and respected unconditionally—was a wakeup call to the gifts he has been given both inside and out of the ring, and to prepare for his upcoming bout with Salita, he has amplified his training like never before to go out and represent the Camacho name proudly.
“It breaks me down to think of him gone, but I’m trying to stay hard,” Camacho Jr. continued.
“It’s part of life. Now he’s gone, and when I run every morning, I think of all the things he had taught me when he was around. I have been thinking hard about everything he has told me through my life and boxing career, and it makes sense now. I feel every day of training that I have him in spirit, and he pushes me and motivates me. I know it’s my time to perform.”
The drive and determination within Hector Camacho Jr. to continue the legacy his father left behind is evident in the conviction in his voice. Camacho Jr. knows February 9 is the moment he has been waiting for to reignite the fire and get back on track to work towards a title fight. He has a tough task at hand as he faces the dangerous Salita, who has only experienced defeat once at the hands of former champion Amir Khan. But Camacho Jr. seems ready—physically, mentally and spiritually—to step up and do what he knows needs to be done.
“It’s gonna be a good fight,” said Camacho Jr. “I’m not fighting Salita, I’m fighting myself. Salita is not the tough part. The tough part is making weight, and executing. We are fighting at 152; I wanted to fight at a weight nobody said I could make. I want to show the boxing world that I am serious now, and that I am ready to take the division by storm.
“After Salita I would love a shot at one of the weakest links—Paulie Malignaggi. I don’t mean to diss nobody, but he is the weakest link. I expect to fight for a belt in 2013. I plan on beating Salita, and that will position me for a big fight. I’d like to move forward and fight Malignaggi, or maybe Canelo down the road. There are some big names out there, and I want a big name. After I win in Brooklyn, I think it will line me up for one.”
Hector Camacho Jr. has dealt with his share of ups and downs both in life and inside the boxing ring; he has had the pleasure and honor to experience some of the highs young fighters dream of, while also facing the lows that no athlete ever wants to endure. For the first time in his long career, Camacho Jr. has owned up and taken responsibility for not taking the sport seriously, and knows that he has been given a huge opportunity in fighting Dmitriy Salita next month.
Regardless of whether or not he emerges from the ring victoriously, if he goes out and fights with the heart, Macho Camacho displayed each time he stepped between the ropes, the he will be paying the greatest homage to the late champion.
In closing, Camacho reflected on one of his greatest memories with his father. It was leading up to when they appeared on the same fight card in 2001—the first father-son tandem to do so since 1975.
“One time we were in training camp, and I couldn’t get my weight down,” said Camacho Jr. “I was weighing 175 pounds. My father was training and was going to fight at 154. I was having issues with weight, so he said he was gonna call the matchmaker and say he wanted to take my opponent, and I was going to take his. It was a funny memory. He said, ‘your half ass training pussy shit won’t get your weight down. I’ll get down to 152 and fight both opponents.’”
On February 9, the boxing world will undoubtedly be rooting for Hector Camacho Jr. to successfully reemerge onto the boxing scene and do his father proud in embarking on a title run.