HECTOR CAMACHO JNR
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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
I MESSED UP... IT’S TOO LATE FOR ME TO BECOME GREAT. IT’S TOO LATE TO MAKE UP WHAT I F**KED UP”
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
I ACCEPTED HIM FOR WHAT HE WAS. HE WAS A GREAT FATHER BUT HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO SHOW IT. I DIDN’T HAVE A FATHER FIGURE GROWING UP”
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