SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hector “Macho” Camacho was a brash fighter with a mean jab and an aggressive style, launching himself furiously against some of the biggest names in boxing. And his bad-boy persona was not entirely an act, with a history of legal scrapes that began in his teens and continued throughout his life.
Camacho died Saturday in the Puerto Rican town where he was born, a little more than three days after at least one gunman crept up to the car in a darkened parking lot and opened fire on the boxer and a friend.
No arrests and have been made, and authorities have not revealed many details beyond the facts that police found cocaine in the car and that the boxer and his friend, who was killed at the scene, had no idea the attack was coming. “Apparently, this was a surprise,” said Alex Diaz, a police spokesman.
Camacho, who was 50, remained unconscious at the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan until Saturday, when doctor’s removed him from life support at his family’s direction. The former world champion is remembered both for his skill and flamboyance in the ring, one of the top fighters of his generation, and a messy personal life that seemed to dog him until the end.
Originally from Bayamon, just outside San Juan, Camacho was long regarded as a flashy if volatile talent, a skilled boxer who was perhaps overshadowed by his longtime foil, Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez, who would beat him in a long-awaited showdown in Las Vegas in 1992.
Camacho fought professionally for three decades, from his humble debut against David Brown at New York’s Felt Forum in 1980 to an equally forgettable swansong against Saul Duran in Kissimmee, Florida, in 2010.
In between, he fought some of the biggest stars spanning two eras, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Roberto Duran.
“Hector was a fighter who brought a lot of excitement to boxing,” said Ed Brophy, executive director of International the Boxing Hall of Fame. “He was a good champion. Roberto Duran is kind of in a class of his own, but Hector surely was an exciting fighter that gave his all to the sport.”
Camacho’s family moved to New York when he was young and he grew up in Spanish Harlem, which at the time was rife with crime. Camacho landed in jail as a teenager before turning to boxing, which for many kids in his neighborhood provided an outlet for their aggression.
“This is something I’ve done all my life, you know?” Camacho told The Associated Press after a workout in 2010. “A couple years back, when I was doing it, I was still enjoying it. The competition, to see myself perform. I know I’m at the age that some people can’t do this no more.”
Former featherweight champion Juan Laporte, a friend since childhood, described Camacho as “like a little brother who was always getting into trouble,” but otherwise combined a friendly nature with a powerful jab.
“He’s a good human being, a good hearted person,” Laporte said as he waited with other friends and members of the boxer’s family outside the hospital in San Juan after the shooting. “A lot of people think of him as a cocky person but that was his motto ... inside he was just a kid looking for something.”
Laporte lamented that Camacho never found a mentor outside the boxing ring.
“The people around him didn’t have the guts or strength to lead him in the right direction,” Laporte said. “There was no one strong enough to put a hand on his shoulder and tell him how to do it.”