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Brash boxer 'Macho' Camacho dies in Puerto Rico

Published: Thursday, July 30 2015 12:46 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this March 7, 1989 file photo, Hector FILE - In this March 7, 1989 file photo, Hector "Macho" Camacho jumps out of the way of a punch thrown by Ray Mancini during the third round of their WBO Junior Welterweight Championship boxing match in Reno, Nev. Camacho, a boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring, as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police, has died, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, after being taken off life support. He was 50. (Eric Risberg, File, Associated Press)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hector "Macho" Camacho was a brash fighter with a mean jab and an aggressive style, launching himself furiously against some of the biggest names in boxing. And his bad-boy persona was not entirely an act, with a history of legal scrapes that began in his teens and continued throughout his life.

Camacho died Saturday in the Puerto Rican town where he was born, a little more than three days after at least one gunman crept up to the car in a darkened parking lot and opened fire on the boxer and a friend.

No arrests and have been made, and authorities have not revealed many details beyond the facts that police found cocaine in the car and that the boxer and his friend, who was killed at the scene, had no idea the attack was coming. "Apparently, this was a surprise," said Alex Diaz, a police spokesman.

Camacho, who was 50, remained unconscious at the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan until Saturday, when doctor's removed him from life support at his family's direction. The former world champion is remembered both for his skill and flamboyance in the ring, one of the top fighters of his generation, and a messy personal life that seemed to dog him until the end.

FILE - In this July 11, 1982 file photo, Luis Loy Jr., left, ducks under a blow by Hector Camacho early in a scheduled 10-round junior lightweight boxing bout at Felt Forum in New York. Hector FILE - In this July 11, 1982 file photo, Luis Loy Jr., left, ducks under a blow by Hector Camacho early in a scheduled 10-round junior lightweight boxing bout at Felt Forum in New York. Hector "Macho" Camacho, a boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring, as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police, has died, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, after being taken off life support. He was 50. (Elias, File, Associated Press)

Originally from Bayamon, just outside San Juan, Camacho was long regarded as a flashy if volatile talent, a skilled boxer who was perhaps overshadowed by his longtime foil, Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez, who would beat him in a long-awaited showdown in Las Vegas in 1992.

Camacho fought professionally for three decades, from his humble debut against David Brown at New York's Felt Forum in 1980 to an equally forgettable swansong against Saul Duran in Kissimmee, Florida, in 2010.

In between, he fought some of the biggest stars spanning two eras, including Sugar Ray Leonard, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Roberto Duran.

"Hector was a fighter who brought a lot of excitement to boxing," said Ed Brophy, executive director of International the Boxing Hall of Fame. "He was a good champion. Roberto Duran is kind of in a class of his own, but Hector surely was an exciting fighter that gave his all to the sport."

FILE - In this Dec. 9, 1986 file photo, Hector FILE - In this Dec. 9, 1986 file photo, Hector "Macho" Camacho WBC lightweight boxing champion, is escorted by Marty Cohen, left, and boxing promoter Don King, right, during a news conference in New York. Famed Puerto Rican boxer Camacho is clinically brain dead, doctors said Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, though they said family members were disagreeing on whether to take him off life support. Dr. Ernesto Torres said doctors have finished performing all medical tests on Camacho, who was shot in the face Tuesday night. (David Bookstaver, File, Associated Press)

Camacho's family moved to New York when he was young and he grew up in Spanish Harlem, which at the time was rife with crime. Camacho landed in jail as a teenager before turning to boxing, which for many kids in his neighborhood provided an outlet for their aggression.

"This is something I've done all my life, you know?" Camacho told The Associated Press after a workout in 2010. "A couple years back, when I was doing it, I was still enjoying it. The competition, to see myself perform. I know I'm at the age that some people can't do this no more."

Former featherweight champion Juan Laporte, a friend since childhood, described Camacho as "like a little brother who was always getting into trouble," but otherwise combined a friendly nature with a powerful jab.

"He's a good human being, a good hearted person," Laporte said as he waited with other friends and members of the boxer's family outside the hospital in San Juan after the shooting. "A lot of people think of him as a cocky person but that was his motto ... inside he was just a kid looking for something."

FILE - In this June 21, 1996 file photo, after a ceremonial weigh-in, Panamanian Roberto Duran, right, reaches for the stomach of  boxing champ Hector FILE - In this June 21, 1996 file photo, after a ceremonial weigh-in, Panamanian Roberto Duran, right, reaches for the stomach of boxing champ Hector "Macho" Camacho, left, who tries to elbow Duran's hand away at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. Camacho, a boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring, as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police, has died, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, after being taken off life support. He was 50. (Charles Rex Arbogast, File, Associated Press)

Laporte lamented that Camacho never found a mentor outside the boxing ring.

"The people around him didn't have the guts or strength to lead him in the right direction," Laporte said. "There was no one strong enough to put a hand on his shoulder and tell him how to do it."

George Lozada, a longtime friend from New York who flew to Puerto Rico on Saturday, recalled that just hours after he was released from prison after serving a murder sentence, he received a call from Camacho, who was waiting outside his apartment in a black Porsche.

"He said, 'Come down, I'm taking you shopping,'" Lozada said, wiping away tears.

"Because of him, man, I got what I got today," he said, pointing to pictures on his smartphone of his 6-year-old daughter. "Because of Hector, I stopped the drug scene ... He's helped so many people."

Drug, alcohol and other problems trailed Camacho himself after the prime of his boxing career. He was sentenced in 2007 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.

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 1996 file photo, referee Jorge Alfonso, left, looks over a cut on the forehead of IBC Welterweight boxing champ Hector FILE - In this Jan. 16, 1996 file photo, referee Jorge Alfonso, left, looks over a cut on the forehead of IBC Welterweight boxing champ Hector "Macho" Camacho during the second round of his title bout with Sal Lopez from New Jersey, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Camacho, a boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring, as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police, has died, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, after being taken off life support. He was 50. (Hans Deryk, File, Associated Press)

A judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence and gave Camacho probation. He wound up serving two weeks in jail, though, after violating that probation.

Camacho's former wife, Amy, obtained a restraining order against him in 1998, alleging he threatened her and one of their children. The couple, who had two children at the time, later divorced.

He divided his time between Puerto Rico and Florida in recent years, appearing on Spanish-language television as well as on a reality show called "Es Macho Time!" on YouTube.

Inside the boxing ring, Camacho flourished. He won three Golden Gloves titles as an amateur, and after turning pro, he quickly became a contender with an all-action style reminiscent of other Puerto Rican fighters.

Long promoted by Don King, Camacho won his first world title by beating Rafael Limon in a super-featherweight bout in Puerto Rico on Aug. 7, 1983. He moved up in weight two years later to capture a lightweight title by defeating Jose Luis Ramirez, and successfully defended the belt against fellow countryman Edwin Rosario.

FILE -  In this July 7, 2001 file photo, boxing champ Hector FILE - In this July 7, 2001 file photo, boxing champ Hector "Macho" Camacho acknowledges fans at KeySpan Park in New York's Coney Island. Camacho, a boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring, as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police, has died, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, after being taken off life support. He was 50. (Stephen Chernin, File, Associated Press)

The Rosario fight, in which the victorious Camacho still took a savage beating, persuaded him to scale back his ultra-aggressive style in favor of a more cerebral, defensive approach.

The change in style was a big reason that Camacho, at the time 38-0, lost a close split decision to Greg Haugen at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in 1991.

Camacho won the rematch to set up his signature fight against Chavez, this time at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Camacho was roundly criticized for his lack of action, and the Mexican champion won a lopsided unanimous decision to retain the lightweight title.

It was at that point that Camacho became the name opponent for other rising contenders, rather than the headliner fighting for his own glory.

He lost a unanimous decision to another young Puerto Rican fighter, Trinidad, and was soundly defeated by De La Hoya. In 1997, Camacho ended Leonard's final comeback with a fifth-round knockout. It was Camacho's last big victory even though he boxed for another decade.

The fighter's last title bout came in 1997 against welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya, who won by unanimous decision. Camacho's last fight was his defeat by Saul Duran in May 2010. He had a career record of 79-6-3.

FILE - In this  July 14, 2001 file photo, boxing champ Hector FILE - In this July 14, 2001 file photo, boxing champ Hector "Macho" Camacho celebrates after defeating Roberto Duran in their super middleweight National Boxing Association championship fight in Denver. Camacho, a boxer known for skill and flamboyance in the ring, as well as for a messy personal life and run-ins with the police, has died, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, after being taken off life support. He was 50. (Ed Andrieski, File, Associated Press)

His survivors include his mother; three sisters, Raquel, Estrella and Ester; a brother, Felix; and four sons, Hector Jr., Taylor, Christian and Justin.

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