Hector Camacho keeps fighting on

It’s been nearly three decades since Hector Camacho won his

first world title, and almost two decades since he won his

last.

For those 10 years in between, he was among the most exciting

and controversial figures in boxing. He was a brawler who

reinvented himself as a defensive fighter, whose rivalry with Julio

Cesar Chavez made just as many headlines as his outsized

personality.

He’s 47 years old now, reduced to fighting in places like

Coconut Creek and Biloxi instead of Las Vegas and New York. The

glitzy casinos and glamour of Madison Square Garden have given way

to hotel ballrooms and small convention centers, as the man

nicknamed “Macho” keeps trying to stave off obscurity the best he

can.

“This is something I’ve done all my life, you know?” Camacho

said by phone after a workout for his next fight, against Allan

Vester on March 26 in Kjellerup, Denmark. “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.”

Camacho’s life and career have taken more turns than a pulp

novel, from the gritty streets of Spanish Harlem to the bright

lights of the Golden Gloves, from walking between the bars of a

jail cell to stepping between the ropes of the ring.

His record stands at 79-5 with 3 draws, the most recent win

coming just last year against Yory Boy Campas, another fighter far

past his prime. But scroll down the list of Camacho’s opponents and

names like Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Ray Leonard are

sprinkled among the nobodies and never-weres that hoped to make a

name for themselves.

“Hector Camacho is a fantastic boxer, one of the greatest in

history,” said Vester’s promoter and father, Anders Vester.

“(Camacho is) the biggest boxing name who has visited Denmark

since Mike Tyson in 2001.”

Camacho claims he doesn’t need the money – that’s not why he’s

fighting in Europe for the first time, in the co-main event

alongside a women’s title fight. He simply needs action, and points

to guys like George Foreman who had successful comebacks years past

their prime.

“He’s still very confident,” said Camacho’s adviser, Steve

Tannenbaum. “He’s still got a bit of that wild child in him.”

Like many fighters who achieved fame and fortune during the

1980s, Camacho became entangled in a web of drug and alcohol abuse

– problems he said are now in the past. Twice his wife filed

domestic abuse complaints against him, and she finally filed for

divorce several years ago.

More recently, Camacho was sentenced to the maximum seven years

in prison for a burglary charge in Mississippi. A judge suspended

most of the sentence and gave him probation, which Camacho said he

violated about three months ago. After a two-week stint in jail,

Camacho was back in the gym and getting ready for his next

fight.

“When I came out, I’ve been training every day for four, five

months it’s been,” he said. “And now I’m ready to take on someone

like Allan Vester, you know?”

Camacho became reviled during his career for his showboating

style, making the long walk to the ring in everything from diapers

to leotards to loincloths.

He promised that hasn’t changed.

“I’ll give them satisfaction,” Camacho said. “I never fought

in Denmark, I never fought in Germany. Those people want to see me,

they want to see the Macho Man.”

While he claims to want to fight at least five or six times over

the next year, Camacho is also realistic. He admits that losing in

Denmark would likely be the end, and he might turn his attention

fully to promoting or training young fighters.

He’s worked for years with his son, Hector Camacho Jr., who

turned 31 not long ago. The two once appeared on the same undercard

in Tucson, Arizona, and they have even fought a common

opponent.

“They’re the best things I put in the world,” Camacho said of

his kids. “I want them to be proud of me, which they are. I just

want to do this and do it well.”

Although he never quite reached the same stratosphere of

contemporaries such as Roberto Duran, Camacho could sell tickets.

He brought a certain exuberance to boxing that never diminished,

one of the reasons he was continually featured on high-profile

undercards.

Even if those days are long past, that boyish enthusiasm hasn’t

dimmed entirely.

“This is what I do best,” he said. “I can probably come back

and promote fights. I’d like to go to Hollywood, do movies,

entertainment. But this is what I’ve done all my life, so I’m just

going to ride it out. I’m going to ride it out.”