Puerto Rico says adios to boxer ‘Macho’ Camacho
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Family, fans and fellow boxers said goodbye Tuesday to Hector "Macho" Camacho at a memorial and wake for the slain former world champion fighter known for his flamboyance in and out of the ring.
Hundreds of people filed past Camacho’s open casket, displayed inside a gymnasium decked out for the occasion with black carpet and curtains. The boxer wore white, along with a large gold crucifix and a necklace spelling out his nickname, "Macho," in capital letters.
First up were members of his immediate family, including his mother, Maria Matias, who wept and caressed her son’s face in the coffin, which was draped in a Puerto Rican flag. "They killed him," she wailed at one point.
Camacho was shot Nov. 20 while sitting in a parked car with a friend outside a bar in Bayamon, his hometown. The friend died at the scene and the boxer three days later after doctors removed him from life support. Police have said they have suspects but have not yet arrested anyone for the shooting.
After the family, came a cross-section of Puerto Rican society that included parents with young children, the elderly, road crew workers in neon safety vests, U.S. soldiers in uniform and a who’s who of Puerto Rican boxers.
"Everybody loved him here in Puerto Rico," said Henry Neumann, the secretary of the U.S. island territory’s sports and recreation department. "He is one of those athletes who transcended the barriers of his country not only for his skill inside the ring but for his personality."
Camacho, who was 50 when he died, left Puerto Rico as a child and moved to New York. He went on to win super lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight world titles in the 1980s and fought high-profile bouts against Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard. He had a career record of 79-6-3 and was a showman in the ring, chanting "It’s Macho time" before fights and wearing garish jewelry.
He battled drug and alcohol problems throughout his life and had frequent run-ins with police. When he was shot, police found an open package of cocaine in the car and nine unopened packages on his friend.
A police officer in Bayamon, Raul Nazario, recalled at the wake how he saw Camacho one day and drove over in his squad car to greet him, but the boxer fled. Later, out of uniform, the officer said he ran into him again and they exchanged a laugh and Camacho posed with him for a photo.
"For Puerto Rican people he was something great," Nazario said.
Many of those in attendance had similar personal encounters. Doris Correa, a 71-year-old from the town of Vega Baja, showed a photo she took of Camacho in the 1980s, when her family and his happened to be camping in the same campground in the island’s southwest. At one point, he grabbed a microphone, declared "it’s Macho time," and began singing for everyone. "Back then, we didn’t know what karaoke was," she said. "He invented it."
Boxer Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez, one of several dozen fighters on hand to say goodbye, recalled Camacho’s dazzling speed in the ring. "He was definitely a showman," he said. "It was something grandiose."
The memorial and wake was scheduled to last two days. Family members have not yet announced the location and date of the funeral. His lawyer, Linda George, told Radio Isla 1320 that it would be in New York.
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