- By Shelly Saltman
When I first met Hector “Macho” Camacho he was an ascending star on the fistic ladder. Like so many born before him, he was fighting his way out of poverty. On that occasion, he had barged into one of Tommy Hearns’ training sessions, staggering around, obviously high on something, chemically or alcohol induced. The late Emanuel Steward, Tommy’s trainer, the head of the camp’s security, a huge gentle man named “Jocko”, a former Detroit Police Detective, removed him. “Macho” did not go silently.
There never was anything silent about “Macho” whether inside, or outside of the ring. Everything he did was bigger than life. He was always in someone’s face mocking, bullying, or attempting to intimidate. However, he was able to back up his braggadocio’s manner with fists that flew. When he entered the ring, his presence was immediate… sometimes wearing boxing trunks fringed with tassels, another time draped in a Puerto Rican Flag. Once he entered the ring wearing a full American Indian Chief’s War Bonnet. He was colorful, yet enigmatic.
Often uncontrollable, he caused his management team much consternation. But, boy could he fight! He fought without reservation, the boxing “Who’s Who” of his generation. A left-handed fighter, he beat the likes of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto “Fists of Stone” Duran. In a three-decade career, his record was 79-6-3 with 38 Knockouts. At one point or another, held both the WBC Junior Lightweight and Lightweight titles as well as the WBO’s Light Welterweight title.
When my partner Ron Glazer and I promoted the Hearns-Duran fight, he would show up on numerous occasions, constantly intruding on Roberto’s training sessions heckling in an obnoxious manner. We always removed him from the premises. Now, understand in Boxing, it is commonplace to try and get under the skin of a current, or future opponent. Ali was a master, but he always did it with a twinkle in his eye, tongue-in-cheek.
Hector was just plain mean and always appeared to be under some sort of influence. Every Boxer that I have known usually has an entourage. Many are from the old neighborhood, some are sycophants and others are leaches. Camacho’s ongoing problem was that many of his followers were ready to supply him with drugs and booze. He won most of his fights in the ring, but in life, he was constantly being knocked down.
My late friend Burt Sugar, the publisher of The Ring magazine, would tell everyone within earshot, that he was legendary, but would never beat his nemesis “John Barley Corn”.
He battled Drug and Alcohol problems throughout his career. He even went to prison for seven years for committing a burglary in Mississippi… drugs were found in his possession. I have never to been to his hometown, Buyamon, Puerto Rico the city of both his birth and his death.
Recently, Susan and I visited Guare, Panama, birthplace of Roberto Duran. I was always told that he and Camacho who grew up in Spanish Harlem came from similar Barrios. Let me describe Guare. First in order to go there we had to have a guide/body guard armed with an automatic rifle. There, unemployed men walked the streets openly with paper bags containing booze, hookers strolled everywhere even as police cars constantly patrolled.
At this writing, Hector is legally Brain Dead, but they have not removed him from life support. Ironically, he was shot in front of a liquor store.
Yesterday, Thanksgiving, I gave my children a signed document with instructions that if I ever am in such a situation, they should stop all attempts to keep me alive. No one else needs to suffer! The expression, “Rest in Peace” is something I wish for “Macho”. In his turbulent time on Earth, his existence was far from Peaceful.
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Sheldon Arthur “Shelly” Saltman’s 50-plus year career in sports includes being the first president of Fox Sports, running the LA office for Mark McCormack, and creator of the bicycle race Tour de California. Saltman was born Aug.17, 1931 in Boston, MA. But in the eyes of the general public he is perhaps best known as the man that Evel Knievel tried to beat to death with a baseball bat. Shelly has created, written, and produced shows for television such as Pro-Fan, Challenge of the NFL Cheerleaders (an early “reality” show), and the movie “Ring of Passion” about the fights between American boxer Joe Louis and German champion Max Schmeling in the years leading up to World War II. Shelly is also the author of various books including EVEL KNIEVEL ON TOUR by Sheldon Saltman with Maury Green (1977 / Dell Publishing) and FEAR NO EVEL: An Insider’s Look At Hollywood as told to Thomas Lyons by Shelly Saltman (January 2007 / We Publish Books).
UPDATE: Camacho was taken off life support on Friday evening Nov. 23, 2012