“The most complete overall boxer that I’ve ever fought in my career was Hector Camacho. His speed was tough to deal with…and he had a lot of boxing ability. I trained to punch with him, and he would come in, throw a combination, but when I threw one back, he would be 10 feet away from me. This would be after he had hit me with three or four shots. His perpetual motion was tremendous, and he was just too quick for me,” Freddie Roach, on Hector “Macho” Camacho, in RING Magazine’s “Best I’ve Faced.”
Trainer Freddie Roach went a step further, saying, “I think he could be a contender in any era.”
Called by De La Hoya, “a fighter inside and outside of the ring,” Camacho, 50, has been waging the battle of his life, literally, in a hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, though all indications are that he is effectively “brain dead,” according to the news outlet El Nuevo Dia.
While a passenger in a car at about 7 p.m. local time in his native Bayamon on Tuesday evening, Camacho was shot multiple times in the face and neck by someone who pulled up next to him.
TMZ reported that the driver of the car Camacho was in was killed. Initially, Dr. Ernesto Torres, the hospital director, told reporters that Camacho was stable and expected to survive.
“This guy is a cat with nine lives. He’s been through so much,” said Camacho representative Steve Tannenbaum. “If anybody can pull through, it will be him.”
Overnight, however, Camacho’s condition worsened after he suffered cardiac arrest, and tests to detect brain waves found minimal activity, according to El Nuevo Dia.
As for the prospect of recovery now, Rafael Rodriguez Mercado, president of the Medical Sciences Campus, said, “It would be a miracle recovery.”
Camacho (79-6-3, 38 knockouts) was never knocked out over the course of a career that included two victories over Roberto Duran, one each over Sugar Ray Leonard, Edwin Rosario, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Howard Davis, Rafael “Bazooka” Limon, Vinny Pazienza and Cornelius Boza-Edwards, and losses to De La Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez and Felix Trinidad.
“What he was and what he always will be was a fighter inside and outside of the ring,” said De La Hoya, who decisioned Camacho in September of 1997.
“I’m sure that he is going to go down as one of the best of any era in the world. I mean, look at who he fought and look at how he fought. If he was around today, he would be among the top 10 out there.”
But Camacho, whose last fight was a 10-round decision loss to Saul Duran in May 2010, is also known for his frequent troubles outside of the ring, where drug, alcohol and domestic problems have troubled the fighter.
In 2007, Camacho was sentenced to seven years in prison for the burglary of a computer store in Mississippi. While arresting him on the burglary charge in January 2005, police also found the drug ecstasy.
A judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence and gave Camacho probation, after which he served two weeks in jail for a violation of probation.
Camacho’s wife twice filed domestic abuse complaints against him, and, later, filed for divorce.
“Camacho’s toughest fights were outside of the ring, they really were,” said Leonard, loser of a fifth-round knockout to Camacho in March of 1997.
“He fought against himself and the drugs and whatever else followed. Alcohol. That was his toughest battle, man. Because, in the ring, he would get back up.”
Roach spoke to RingTV.com from his Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., where he is preparing Manny Pacquiao for his fourth bout with Juan Manuel Marquez on Dec. 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“I think that he was a great athlete, and if he stayed on the straight and narrow, he could have been, pound-for-pound, one of the best fighters in the world,” said Roach, loser of a decision to Camacho in December of 1985.
“I think that he would have been like a Manny Pacquiao. I think that he would have used his speed as his best asset. I think that he could be a contender in any era.”
Camacho’s professional debut was his first of four straight stoppage victories — a third-round knockout over Rafael Lopez (16-1, 9 KOs) in March of 1982.
“I think that he was a star from the very first time that I saw him, when I was working with HBO, doing color commentary,” said Leonard. “I noticed that he had that thing, man. He had that ‘X-factor.’”
“He could be very crude and sexy and all of those things. But he could also fight. He had incredible hand-speed, incredible power and he was a showman.”
Camacho’s first belt was captured by fifth-round knockout against Limon for the WBC’s vacant junior lightweight belt in August of 1983, after which he made one defense with a fifth-round stoppage of Rafael Solis in November of 1983.
In August of 1985, he routed Jose Luis Ramirez for the WBC’s lightweight belt, and then won his next four fights by decision over Roach, Rosario, Boza-Edwards and Davis.
The bouts with Rosario and Boza-Edwards were title defenses.
In March of ’89, Camacho split-decisioned Mancini for the WBO’s vacant lightweight belt, later defending it with a decision over Pazienza in December of 1990, and then both losing and regaining it by split-decision against Greg Haugen in February and May of ’91, respectively.
Over the latter portion of his career, Camacho twice decisioned Duran in June of 1996, and, July of 2001, vanquished Leonard in his next fight by fifth-round knockout in March of 1997, and lost his next fight to De La Hoya in September of ’97.
“When I fought him, they said that he doesn’t hit that hard,” said Leonard, who un-retired to face Camacho. “Well, I don’t know how they guaged that, but at that point he did hit me pretty hard.”
According to one report, Camacho’s family is considering removing him from life support.
“I had heard that they pulled the plug this morning,” said Roach. “And if that’s the case, then we lost another great one.”
De La Hoya agreed.
“‘Macho’ Camacho fought the best,” said De La Hoya, “And he was one of the best.”
Photos / Al Bello-Gettyimages, Holly Stein-Allsport/Gettyimages, Timothy Clary-AFP/Gettyimages, Carlos Schiebeck-AFP/Gettyimages
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org