Hector “Macho” Camacho was a charismatic showman whose speed and agility earned him three world boxing titles even as his recklessness outside the ring brought him a wealth of trouble.
Camacho, 50, was declared dead on Saturday after being removed from a respirator. He had been declared brain dead on Thursday, two days after he was shot in the head while in a car in San Juan outside a liquor store.
His driver, Alberto Mojica Moreno, 49, was killed in the shooting.
Camacho was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, but spent much of his childhood and youth in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.
He won super lightweight, lightweight and light welterweight world titles in the 1980s and fought marquee bouts against Felix Trinidad, Roberto Duran, Oscar de la Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard in a career that spanned three decades.
He ended Leonard’s last comeback bid in 1997 with a knockout victory.
The list of Camacho’s elite opponents shows plenty of substance to his boxing career, but he’ll also be remembered for his flamboyant style.
His tasselled trunks and the ring theatrics of “Macho Time” helped pave the way for fighters such as Naseem Hamed, and fighter-turned-promoter Oscar de la Hoya -- who earned a unanimous decision over Camacho in 1997 -- said Camacho was the fighter who first showed him how to really sell a bout.
“He was definitely advanced when it came to the marketing side of boxing and selling himself,” de la Hoya said.
In retirement, Camacho could still woo an audience, appearing on the reality television programs “Mira Quien Baila” (“Look Who is Dancing”) and “Es Macho Time.”
“He revolutionized boxing,” said Mexican ring icon Chavez. “He was very charismatic and extroverted. He was a chatterbox, but he was very good, one of the best. It’s a shame he got mixed up in so many problems.”
Camacho didn’t have the reputation of a heavy puncher. Agile and quick, he was hard to hit in his prime.
“When he was young, you couldn’t hit him, that’s why he won his first 50 fights,” veteran boxing publicist Bill Caplan told the Los Angeles Times.
Caplan also recalled how Camacho’s positive nature came through when he suffered his first defeat, in a 1991 World Boxing Organization lightweight title bout against Greg Haugen in Las Vegas.
“You’d think the guy would be devastated, but 15 minutes after the loss, he was back in press row for the second fight of the HBO doubleheader, shaking everyone’s hands,” Caplan recalled. “Just a happy-go-lucky guy who loved people.”
Camacho finished his career with a record of 79-6 with three draws and 38 knockouts.
Throughout his life, however, Camacho dealt with drug and alcohol addiction, which led him into brushes with the law.
In 2007 he was sentenced to seven years in prison in relation to a 2005 burglary. That sentence was suspended, but he did eventually spend two weeks behind bars for violating his probation.
Earlier this year US police charged Camacho with child abuse for allegedly slamming his son into a floor at his ex-wife’s home in Florida.
“I think that he was a great athlete, and if he stayed on the straight and narrow, he could have been, pound-for-pound, one of the best fighters in the world,” Freddie Roach, who lost a decision to Camacho in 1985, told RingTV.
“I think that he would have been like a Manny Pacquiao,” added Roach, who now trains Filipino icon Pacquiao. “I think that he would have used his speed as his best asset. I think that he could be a contender in any era.”
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