Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Macho Is Still the Man

We've long recognized that by today's lofty standards Hector Camacho isn't a name deserving of much NOTY attention. If Camacho turned up at the Golden Gloves, or on American Idol, or in the police blotter, he wouldn’t merit more than a quick smile. If he fought Terdsak Jandaeng, he’d be onomastic road kill. We wouldn’t waste a high seed on him.

But in 1983, he wasn’t just some guy named Hector Camacho. He was Hector Macho Camacho, the Macho Man, and we were glassy-eyed NOTY novices. The macho-containing surname, coupled with the nerdily contradictory Hector, was cool. Macho went right up on the dorm-room door, along with Dexter Manley, Herman Veal, Baskerville Holmes and Cornelius Boza Edwards. Undoubtedly influenced by alcohol and our respect for undefeated superfeatherweights nicknamed Macho, we declared Camacho, by voice vote, the first Name of the Year.

In retrospect, we defend our choice. Certainly not on aestethic grounds; we mean, Baskerville Holmes is a name of legendary proportions, especially given the modern etymology of his surname. But as a character—and at NOTY we’ve always believed that character matters—the Macho Man has been hard to top.

Camacho grew up on the crime ridden streets of Spanish Harlem, had fathered a child by the age of 15 and bragged that he had once chased a man down Harlem’s Third Avenue with a sawed-off shotgun.

A few months after winning the 1983 NOTY, Camacho won a second title, defeating Rafael ``Bazooka’’ Limon for the vacant World Boxing Council superfeatherweight crown. With hands as speedy as a woodpecker's beak, our man racked up more wins and more belts in more divisions. He took out another favorite name, Freddie Roach, though the mellifluous Livingstone Bramble refused to fight him to unify the lightweight crown.

Then, in 1986, he fought Edwin Rosario for the lightweight title. Mike Tyson and the onomastically underrated Julio Cesar ChavezJulius Caesar plus Cesar Chavez—were on the undercard! Camacho wore flag-of-Puerto-Rico trunks, which offended some islanders because the star was aligned with his crack.

Macho won the first three rounds. Then Rosario opened a flask of whupass:

After that and subsequent pummelings, Camacho retreated into a defensive posture. He won by split decision.

Puerto Ricans and other boxing fans who saw the fight have argued about the scoring ever since.

God we loving boxing. And Macho is boxing. He beat drug charges. He beat Boza Edwards, Ray ``Boom Boom'' Mancini, Vinny Paz and Tony Baltazar. The flamboyant young Macho was compared to Ali (for theatrics, not a keen sense of social justice). In 1991, Macho finally lost, to Greg Haugen, because the ref deducted a point when he refused to touch gloves at the start of the 12th round. He won a rematch, then entered the ring as Captain America for a lightweight title fight against Chavez, which he lost. He beat Robert Duran twice (combined ages of fighters the second time: 89). He warmed our hearts by knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard for the IBC middleweight belt. He lost to a young Oscar de la Hoya. Then, in December 2004, now 42 and preparing for yet another fight, he robbed a computer store in Biloxi, Miss.

When the boys in blue finally got the cuffs on the elusive ``Macho Man,'' he was holed up in a $35 a night hotel room at the Imperial Palace hotel and casino in Biloxi. Keeping him company in the room was a small stash of illegal pills called Ecstasy.

It gets better. The owners of the store, Solomon and Samantha Wheeler, said someone crawled through the ceiling, fell into the store, ransacked the place, and stole seven laptops and cash.

Pictures taken by the Wheelers showed blood splattered on computers and walls. But here's the part that bothered the Wheelers the most—there was urine soaking parts of Mrs. Wheeler's office. ``He actually peed in my fax machine, and down around the carpet,'' Mrs. Wheeler said. Her husband then picked up the story. ``The only thing we could think of was maybe he fell through and urinated in the process, because everything from about head level down in that corner was soiled upon, and I had to clean that up. It was quite disgusting.''

Six months later, Camacho fought on the same card as his son, Hector Camacho Jr. After the 10th round, Camacho Sr. tussled with his opponent, Raul Munoz. Both corners raced into the ring to break it up. Fans threw beer at them.

After the raucous [sic] inside the arena had calmed down, the Camachos went back to the dressing room. Inside the dressing room there was no sign of frustration or distress in the Camacho camp. Camacho Sr. and Camacho Jr. both left the arena in separate limos.

Macho won.

Yesterday, he lost. Macho pleaded out on the burglary charge and left a courthouse in handcuffs, bound for jail. The judge wasn’t sympathetic to his explanation that he ``just tripped out’’ on tequila and broke into the store to retrieve a laptop because he missed his family in Puerto Rico.

``I'm just not a drinker,’’ Camacho said. ``I wasn't in the best state of mind.''

Oh, and a bail bondsman said Macho has owed him money for two years. And his cellphone rang in court. And he still faces sentencing, up to seven years. And a trial on an Ecstasy charge.

Hector Macho Camacho: Worthy of our love in 1983, still worthy now.

Update: We completely forgot that just last fall Macho sparred with his NOTY-eligible girlfriend Bonita Money at a restaurant in the Bronx. ``I love Bonita,'' Macho said, perfectly. ``It just got a little out of hand.''