As Hector Ca­ma­cho Jnr en­ters his for­ties he looks back on a ca­reer that didn’t TXLWH IXOĆO H[SHFWDWLRQ. SR KHÈV SODQQLQJ RQH ODVW UXQ +H WDONV WR Thomas Ger­basi DQG UHYHDOV WKH SUHVVXUH RI IROORZLQJ LQ WKH IRRWVWHSV RI D +DOO RI )DPH IDWKHU

Boxing News - - Contents -

The pres­sures and ben­e­fits of fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of a leg­endary fa­ther

TIME may not heal all wounds, but if one is lucky enough, it should pro­vide wis­dom. That’s where Hector Ca­ma­cho Jnr sits as he turns 40.

Like all fight­ers, he feels like he has one more run left in him, but as he pre­pares for that run, he is un­der no il­lu­sions about what’s ahead of him or, more im­por­tantly, what’s be­hind him.

The son of In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Hall of Fame mem­ber Hector “Ma­cho” Ca­ma­cho, “Ma­chito” is well aware that he didn’t achieve what many thought he would over the course of a ca­reer in which he still com­piled an im­pres­sive 58-7-1, 1 NC record with 32 wins by knock­out. But he blames no one ex­cept the man in the mir­ror.

“I messed up my own ca­reer,” he said. “I can’t blame no­body. I f**ked up my own ca­reer by not giv­ing my­self a hun­dred per­cent. I un­der­stand that. But at least I could re-write his­tory by win­ning a world cham­pi­onship. Then I can leave box­ing happy. It’s too late for me to be­come great, it’s too late for me to make up what I f**ked up. But one thing I do want to do is leave box­ing with some­thing, and that’s be­com­ing a world cham­pion.”

The odds aren’t in his favour, but that hasn’t stopped him from pulling out all the stops to at least get in the shape nec­es­sary to give him­self a chance. He’s made the trek from his home in Panama to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where he is train­ing with Javier Capetillo. And two fights af­ter com­ing in at a ca­reer-high 175 pounds for a 2014 win over Miguel An­gel Mun­guia, which was fol­lowed by a knock­out loss to Or­lando Lora in his most re­cent bout in 2017, where he weighed in at 171 pounds, Ca­ma­cho ex­pects to be at the wel­ter­weight limit by the time his comeback kicks into gear.

“Through all my years of box­ing, I learned that I can­not fight at 168 or 160,” he said. “Even 154 is too big for me. I’m gonna re­ally come back at 147, where I have a le­git­i­mate chance to win a world cham­pi­onship. 154, I’ll be dream­ing. 160, for­get about it, they’re mon­sters. I’m a small guy and I like to eat.”

And for much of his ca­reer, he didn’t like to train. Blessed with tal­ent and a fa­mous sur­name, Ca­ma­cho got the red car­pet treat­ment when he turned pro in 1996, seem­ingly des­tined to fol­low in his fa­ther’s foot­steps. But there were a few dis­tinct dif­fer­ences be­tween fa­ther and son, chief among them that Hector Snr needed to fight to es­cape the streets of Span­ish Har­lem and be­come great. Ju­nior had an­other goal.

“Be­fore I turned pro, I told my­self I’d be com­pared to my fa­ther, and I just did not want to be like Marvis Frazier,” said Ca­ma­cho. “I wanted to build my own iden­tity, I wanted to be me. And I pushed my­self, know­ing that I had to be the best I could be. But I knew my fa­ther was spe­cial, and it wasn’t any pres­sure on me. The only pres­sure I did have was pleas­ing my fa­ther and mak­ing sure he was happy with my ca­reer, more than I was for my­self. When I turned pro, I didn’t want to be­come world cham­pion; I wanted to make some money. I didn’t care about be­ing a cham­pion. And when I did get com­pared to my fa­ther, it was a com­pli­ment be­cause my fa­ther was great.”

The se­nior Ca­ma­cho was a spe­cial fighter in his hey­day, blaz­ing fast with un­der­rated pop in his fists, es­pe­cially early in his ca­reer. Sev­eral world ti­tles in mul­ti­ple weight classes

fol­lowed, as he fought the best of the best from ³


Ba­zooka Limon, Jose Luis Ramirez, Cornelius Boza-ed­wards and Ray Mancini, to Julio Ce­sar Chavez, Su­gar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, Roberto Duran and Os­car De La Hoya. Add in his flash and gift of gab, and Ca­ma­cho was a le­git su­per­star in an era full of them.

But it was a split de­ci­sion win over Ed­win Rosario in 1986 that was al­ways seen as a turn­ing point in the ca­reer of Ca­ma­cho Snr, as he had to sur­vive sev­eral dicey mo­ments from his fel­low Puerto Ri­can be­fore leav­ing the Madi­son Square Gar­den ring with the vic­tory. Many be­lieve he was never the same fighter again, more will­ing to take the safe route on fight night than stand in the trenches and trade. Few let him for­get it ei­ther.

Fif­teen years later, Ca­ma­cho Jnr, 32-0 with 18 KOS, met his Ed­win Rosario in the form of Texas vet­eran Jesse James Leija. Fight­ing in an out­door ring steps away from the Coney Is­land amuse­ment park in Brook­lyn, New York, Ca­ma­cho was ex­pected to have his com­ing out party as the Hbo-tele­vised head­liner.

“I was an HBO fighter, I was a hot prospect and I was bust­ing my ass in the gym,” he re­called. “Right be­fore the Leija fight, I was the next Latino su­per­star. I was ne­go­ti­at­ing a big money fight against [Ar­turo] Gatti for $2.3 mil­lion.”

Leija had other ideas, and while he was be­hind on all three score­cards when the bout came to an end at the con­clu­sion of the fifth round, most ob­servers had dif­fer­ent views of the fight, or at least where the fight was go­ing. Ca­ma­cho, cut over the eye due to a clash of


heads, said he couldn’t see. The bout was halted, and while it ini­tially went to Ca­ma­cho via tech­ni­cal de­ci­sion, the re­sult was later changed to a no con­test. Re­gard­less of the fi­nal ver­dict, Ca­ma­cho’s rep­u­ta­tion took a hit.

“In New York City, my home­town, the next day on the back page of the New York Post sports sec­tion, it says real big ‘Ca­ma­cho’s a cow­ard’,” he said. “I read this and I felt hurt. ‘Wow, in my own city they’re burn­ing me.’ I thought about my fa­ther and he went

through the same s**t. Why didn’t I learn? He was the ‘Ma­cho Man.’ Af­ter the Rosario fight, they burned his ass. I should have ex­pected that to hap­pen, but it hit me to the heart. The next day in my own home­town, they said ‘cow­ard,’ and that just threw my whole love and mo­ti­va­tion for box­ing out. I said ‘F’ it. Then from there I started screw­ing around, not train­ing much, en­joy­ing my money, go­ing into fights 170, 160 and los­ing. I was win­ning a lot of fights on sheer tal­ent alone, but put­ting no work into it.”

That didn’t sit well with Ca­ma­cho’s fa­ther [right]. Ju­nior ad­mits that his fam­ily up­bring­ing wasn’t the typ­i­cal one, so it wasn’t like there were Ca­ma­cho fam­ily din­ners tak­ing place on a weekly ba­sis.

“I ac­cepted him for what he was,” Ca­ma­cho Jnr said. “I un­der­stood. He was a great fa­ther, just didn’t know how WR VKRZ LW B%XW Ζ GLGQȆW KDYH D IDWKHU ILJXUH

grow­ing up. It was me, my mother, my grand­mother, my two aunts. I was raised by all fe­males.”

Yet as he saw his son’s ca­reer start to hit a slide that started with the Leija fight and picked up speed two fights later with his first pro loss against Omar Weis, “The Ma­cho Man” was there to de­liver some tough love.

“There came a time af­ter that first loss, that he pointed this out to me. He said, ‘You don’t have what I have. You’re not hun­gry like me. I had to do it. You didn’t have to do it. You have to push harder than I have to push if you want to be­come bet­ter than me.’ He used to push me.”

Ca­ma­cho Jnr was his own man, though, and he just didn’t have the love for the game any­more. He kept win­ning, go­ing 19-2-1 af­ter the Weis fight un­til a 2010 knock­out loss to David Lemieux at mid­dleweight, but he never got a crack at a world ti­tle. ȊΖ ZDV QXPEHU RQH LQ WKH :%$ IRU RYHU

two years,” he said. “The [140lb] cham­pion at that time was Sharmba Mitchell. Then I was num­ber one for Kostya Tszyu, but my man­ager was telling me at that time, ‘Leave that man alone. He’s an an­i­mal. You’re still a young kid, let’s max­imise your name.’ [Laughs] They took careof me from a box­ing sense, but yes, I’m sur­prised I never got a world ti­tle fight. That’s why I’m still fight­ing to this day. I just want an op­por­tu­nity to be­come a world cham­pion and go down in the his­tory books.”

He talks of one of his first vis­its to the lo­cal box­ing gym in Panama and be­ing em­braced by the lo­cals. Well, ex­cept for one guy.

“They know their box­ing,” Ca­ma­cho said of the peo­ple of Panama. “I went to the box­ing gym and I was sur­prised that ev­ery­body knew who I was. They knew about my ca­reer, my record. And one guy said, ‘Ca­ma­cho, you was the champ be­fore.’ An­other guy came from the EOHDFKHUV DQG \HOOHG RXW Ȇ%XOOV W KH QHYHU

was a world cham­pion.’ [Laughs] I said, ‘Give me a hug.’ He knew his box­ing.”

Ca­ma­cho Jnr knows his box­ing too. He may not have hit the heights in the ring, but when it comes to the busi­ness of the sweet sci­ence, he’s sharp, and the kind of per­son who would prob­a­bly make a good pro­moter, man­ager or com­men­ta­tor one day. He agrees, but he makes it clear that such a day won’t be on his radar un­til he gives two more years to this sport in an ef­fort to put a cham­pi­onship belt around his waist. It’s not an im­pos­si­ble dream, but it is a long­shot. He knows that too, but it won’t stop him from try­ing. Maybe it’s a self­ish thing, or maybe LWȆV EHFDXVH KH ZDQWV LW IRU KLV GDXJKWHU %XW

deep down, it could just be that Ju­nior wants to win a world ti­tle for his fa­ther, who was shot and killed in 2012. Now that would be some story.

“He’d be smil­ing down,” said Ca­ma­cho Jnr. “He al­ways wanted me to do that. Al­ways.”bbn


BRIGHT FU­TURE: Ca­ma­cho Jnr [right] poses along­side Phillip Hol­i­day be­fore beat­ing him in 2000

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