Thousands paid their respects last weekend to boxing legend Hector “Macho” Camacho during his going-home services at Spanish Harlem’s St. Cecilia’s Church. His body was flown in on Thursday, and a private service was conducted with relatives and close friends at an undisclosed location.
The popular pugilist was removed from life support Nov. 24 after being shot in the face four days earlier as he and an acquaintance, who was killed, sat in a car in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Prior to Friday’s wake, a legion of supporters chanted, “Macho!” as Camacho’s coffin was placed on a horse-drawn carriage, which then led a caravan of dozens of vehicles around the very same neighborhood in which he was raised.
During the somber affair, some recalled Camacho’s influence in Harlem during the 1980s and ’90s at the height of his popularity, as he commanded a respect not seen since the days of street-ball legend Peewee Kirkland more than a decade earlier. Some reflected on seeing the Macho Man pushing expensive cars through the ‘hood, decked out in massive gold jewels, without incident.
“Camacho was Harlem,” proclaimed close comrade and fellow boxing legend Iran “The Blade” Barkley. “Wherever he put his foot in, he made everybody happy. He let everyone know that he was the Macho Man!”
Colleagues recalled a boxer with Hall of Fame talent who never received the recognition he deserved. “Hector Camacho was never really given his just due,” ring great Sugar Ray Leonard said on Friday. “He was an incredible fighter and I love him!”
Ex-pro boxer Rick Young reflected on sparring sessions he and Hector shared, prior to commenting, “He was a good fighter. When he put his combinations together and was moving, he was hard to beat.”
Ex-adversary Oscar De La Hoya 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.”
Boxing trainer Trouble Figueroa mentioned meeting the Macho Man in various gyms throughout the years, then commented: “He brought a lot of style to boxing. Many people who normally wouldn’t watch boxing were now checking boxing [because of Camacho], like Muhammad Ali did in his time. Not only was he flamboyant and flashy, but he could fight.”
Leon “The Cat” Taylor spoke about both boxers winning the Golden Gloves in 1979, before saying, “He wasn’t Muhammad Ali, but he did what Ali did. He made himself–he made Macho Man! Look at what he did for boxing.”
Trainer/manager Billy Giles said his former protege was “the greatest junior lightweight that ever lived, whose career is incomplete. He was the smartest guy in that ring, he was a genius.”
Hector Camacho Jr. determined, “He was a beautiful man to everybody, that’s why he got so much love and support. He was a great man. He was a friend to strangers, a brother to those who knew him, a good heart. It’s sad that he goes, but at the end of the day, what matters was not his legacy, not the money he made, but his heart.”
Camacho’s mother, Maria Matias, told supporters, “Thank you, Nueva York!”
After services Saturday morning at Cecilia’s, the champion’s body was buried at the Bronx’s St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
Back in Puerto Rico, police investigating the shooting were questioning Jesus Adorno Naranjo, 25, and Jose Mendez Roman, 21, but as of press time, there was not enough evidence to arrest them.
“There’s a lot that’s known, but can’t be let out yet, because it’s still under investigation,” concluded Panchito Gomez, the champion’s brother from another mother.