With a population of less than 4 million, Puerto Rico has produced an extraordinary number of world class boxers, none more accomplished than the flamboyant Héctor Camacho.
Héctor Camacho was born at Bayamón, Puerto Rico in 1962. He took to boxing like a duck to water, and after a glittering amateur career that saw him winning three New York Golden Gloves titles, he turned pro as a featherweight. A fight with the outstanding Mexican world champion Salvador Sánchez failed to materialise because he died in a car accident on August 12, 1982 aged just 23, but Camacho moved up to Junior Lightweight fighting and defeating Rafael Limón to win the vacant WBC title.
Camacho would go on to win a further three world titles and finish with a record of 79 wins from 88 fights with 45 stoppages, 3 draws and only 6 losses. He had a number of big money fights most notably against an admittedly jaded former great, Sugar Ray Leonard, who came out of retirement for the March 1997 bout at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Camacho stopped the older man, the only knock out suffered by Leonard in his career, the referee intervening as Leonard was pinned on the ropes taking a beating after being knocked down seconds earlier in the fifth. The full fight and various edits of it can be found on YouTube.
Leonard's return to the ring may have been unwise (payday excepted) but he appears to have invested his money well and is living the dream in his golden years. Alas, like so many fighters, Camacho did not. He never quite retired, fighting once in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010, his last fight being a loss on points. His private life was turbulent, siring four children by three different women; his marriage ended in an acrimonious divorce; his eldest son Héctor Camacho, Jr, has followed in his father's footsteps (though hopefully only in the ring).
Camacho Sr had substance abuse issues, and was given a gaol sentence for burglary in 2005, among his other problems. Last year he was the victim of a carjacking, but escaped unhurt. On Tuesday night he was the victim of a similar incident while sitting in a car. His friend Adrian Mojica Moreno who was in the vehicle with him was shot and killed. Camacho was seriously injured, but all hopes were dashed when he was declared braindead, and today his elderly mother made the decision to take him off life support.
In his fifty years on this planet, Héctor Camacho was a flawed human being, as are we all, but along with the footage of the aforementioned Leonard fight, can be found much other footage of a younger, flamboyant "Macho" Camacho at his best. Let all fight fans and the rest of us remember him that way.
Héctor Luis Camacho Matías born Bayamón, Puerto Rico, May 24, 1962; died San Juan, Puerto Rico, November 24, 2012.