When news of retired boxer Hector “Macho” Camacho’s passing scrolled along the bottom line on ESPN shortly after Thanksgiving, I was immediately surprised by the sadness I felt.
I didn’t follow Camacho’s career. In fact, I only watched one of his fights and I don’t remember if he won or lost. I was eight years old, spending the night in a Wisconsin hotel while visiting my mother who was in a physical rehabilitation center after a devastating car accident. Those were heavy nights for a kid with more questions than answers about the changing circumstances of his life, and whether you’re a boxing fan or not, the heaviness of such nights is best alleviated by pizza and two guys beating the ever-living piss out of each other on television.
Camacho entered the ring to music I’d never heard before, wearing a flashy costume that made him look more like a professional wrestler than a boxer. I loved him immediately. When the ring announcer belted out the showman’s name - HECTOR MAAAAAACHO CUH-MAH-CHO…CAH-MAH-CHO - I reacted like Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf meeting his father’s co-worker Francisco. ”Ooo, that’s fun to say!”
I never much cared for Hector Camacho the Boxer, but I never forgot Hector “Macho” Camacho the Brand. Not bad, considering I wouldn’t grasp the concept of branding for another decade.
Since his passing, I have found that Camacho led a life unfortunately typical of many fighters outside the ring. He battled drugs, had run-ins with the law, and seems to have made far more poor decisions than good.
Despite winning titles in multiple weight classes, opinions of Camacho in the ring appear to be relatively subdued. He was roundly considered a good fighter, but few consider him great. His biggest wins were against boxers whose best years were behind them, and he lost to the elite fighters of his generation - Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad, and Julio Cesar Chavez.
I can’t tell you with any confidence where Camacho’s boxing legacy stands in the sport’s lexicon. What I can tell you is that one random night his brand of “Macho” made a lasting impression on a kid watching a fight for sport to take his mind off his mother’s fight for life. And I’ll never forget him.