Lesvia Castro is a Black Music vet with strong ties to Soul City. She has been a friend of the playa’s for 25 years. She worked in video when it was cool, A&R when it meant something and is currently in the marketing department at Universal Records. She is of Puerto Rican descent and a writer with flair.
Last week, Puerto Rican boxing legend, Hector “Macho” Camacho, the scrapping New Yorker, who fought his way out of Spanish Harlem to be a four time world champion, was murdered on the island of his people. He was a magical figure who captured the imagination of every New Yorker with a dream. The news of his death broke my heart and prompted me to request a guest blog from Lesvia. Here it is.
I admired Hector Camacho’s skills in the ring and loved that he was Borinqueno. This made the love fest more intense for me because he was one of our own, and his ascension into the boxing world as one of the greats, elicited national pride for Puerto Ricans on the island and on the mainland. We loved that he never forgot about the island of enchantment, where he was born.
I also admired that after doing a short bid for some dumb shit he did uptown, he would square off with dudes behind the wall, and after seeing how great a fighter he was, one of them spoke 5 words to him that would forever change the trajectory of his life, “what are you doing here?” After that stint in jail, the cocky kid escaped the mean streets of Spanish Harlem by focusing on fostering his God-given ability to box, and ultimately earned three time New York Golden Gloves Champion and four time World Champ status.
Camacho was a lionizing figure in the sports world with a brash character. He strutted his way to fame with that single, annoying, power curl that dangled faithfully from the middle of his forehead, and its longer, even more annoying follicle bredren, that hung from the lower back of his head. He lacked humility and was too Hollywood for some. He was a colorful guy, who did it big, with flamboyance in and outside of the ring. His aggressive and outspoken attitude, his SUPA sized persona, his ladies’ man status and the offensive amounts of jewelry he wore proudly, sealed this impression in the public’s mind.
I never really liked that he was so full of himself or that he liked to wage psychological warfare on his opponents, but I resolved that it was part of the ever-present mind fuck that boxers use to instill the intimidation prior to squaring off in the ring. Once, he had the audacity brass cojones to feminize a challenger by sending him a pair of red lace panties before a fight. To ensure that he would open the gift, Camacho had the box addressed as if it had come from the Governor of Puerto Rico. Along with many of the fans who were in attendance at MSG, the night the two fighters battled for the world lightweight title, I believed that Edwin Rosario, his fellow Puerto Rican, kicked his ass. The cacophony of “boos,” when the winner was announced, told me so. Many believed (me included) that the fight was unfairly called for Camacho.
The Julio Cesar Chavez fight showed the world what Camacho was made of. He was outclassed, outfought and pummeled ferociously. When it became apparent that there was no beating Chavez, he stood his ground and didn’t quit. He carried the pride of a nation into the ring with him that night and made us all beam with joy. He was a MACHO man and macho men, who grow up in Spanish Harlem by way of Bayamon Puerto Rico, don’t quit! And, he didn’t! He famously said at the post-fight conference “I just got my ass kicked, but I’m still ready to party!” That was the essence of who he was.
Oscar De La Hoya, who put Camacho on the canvas and defeated him for the WBC welterweight title on Sept. 13, 1997, tweeted: “May your soul rest in peace my friend. You are a warrior gladiator and a special human being. We will miss you dearly and will always love you. I remember Emanuel Steward told me, “You are not going to knock him out, his chin is made of granite and his heart is twice the size!”
In the end, Hector “Macho” Camacho was a misunderstood soul, who couldn’t get out of his own way. I wanted him to win…not just in the ring, but in life. He said that he was back and that he was done with all the extra-curricular activities that overshadowed his greatness as a warrior. But since he raced toward his death by keeping suspect friendships in his midst, he’s left us all in disbelief, broken hearted, confused and in mourning.
Tragically, at 50 years of age, he was much too young to have made his departure from this life in such a violent manner. His spirit remains, however, in the heart of his fans that accepted the man with all his faults. Though he pursued his life with reckless abandon, he was an icon in Puerto Rican popular culture and will always be remembered as a skilled boxer and brilliant promotion man with unmitigated audacity, that easily rivaled that of Don King’s. I hope the peace that eluded him in life, has finally found him in death. Que en paz descances, Campeon Borinqueno! It will always be MACHO TIME in our hearts…