Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Illustration for article titled La Vida Macho

In case you missed it, peep Paul Solotaroff's terrific Men's Journal piece on the late Hector "Macho" Camacho. Solotaroff manages to capture the mishegoss and absurdity that was Camacho's life with empathy and humor. The story plays it straight when it could easily have become a mean, one-note take down. Instead, it's full of crazy life:

Hector Luis Camacho was born to be a boxer, which is another way of saying he suffered. But Macho was also born to entertain, to turn suffering into a cross between 'Benny Hill' and 'Sábado Gigante' on Univision. The second of three children by Maria and Hector Camacho (Macho was technically Hector Jr., and his own son Hector III, but no one ever called them that), he was talking a mile a minute from the time he could walk. "Hector never shut up, he drive everyone crazy," says Maria, now 73 and still living most of the year in the Spanish Harlem projects where she raised him. A nut-brown woman with firecracker eyes, she fled Hector Sr. when Macho was five and took him and his older sister to New York. "My husband drink and beat me so bad, I scared for me and my kids." She hid in the Bronx, but Senior found her there, so they moved a lot to stay a step ahead. "It was terrible," says Raquel, the oldest of her children, who's just up the block in a dank two-bedroom that she shares with her grown son and his daughter. "We lived in a place that burned down, we lived in a shelter, four of us in a bed to keep warm. It was always drama, but Mami held us down. We never went hungry, and Hector could eat."

He could also sing, tell jokes, and get girls to do him favors – all from the age of nine. "What can I say? He started young; he was Macho even then," cracks Robert Rivera. Rivera, 49, was Hector's running buddy from the day they met in grade school, though by junior high, neither spent much time in class; the streets always called with better offers. "He wanted to see life early, know what I'm saying? If he saw a nice car, he'd take it for a ride, then return it where he boosted it from. Or we'd go to Woolworth's, and he'd distract the guard while I stole a tray of fried chicken. It wasn't crimes so much as more cries for help. That smile was the mask he put on."

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