When I read today that former world boxing champ Hector “Macho” Camacho was in critical condition after being shot in the face in Puerto Rico, my first thought was this: There’s another guy that boxing didn’t save.
It seems that for every fighter who says the sport got him away from crime and poverty, there’s another who goes right back. Boxing only seems to have given them more money with which to operate. I knew a local boxer who did well but ended up going to jail for holding up a credit union; another who won some titles but got involved in a shooting back in Utah.
Camacho has a history of domestic, alcohol and drug problems. When shot, he was in a car with an associate who was killed. The car, registered to the associate, had a 10 bags of cocaine inside, according to ESPN.
My brief and impersonal experience with Camacho was while I was in Las Vegas for a world title fight back in the 1980s. Camacho wasn’t fighting that night, but they introduced him ringside. He stepped inside the ropes wearing a gold lame jumpsuit. Around his neck was a big chain with the letters “Macho” spelled out, six inches high.
I liked his attitude and flair. He was flamboyant and appealing. Boxing has thrived on big personalities, and Camacho had plenty of that. I could tell by the crowd reaction he was highly popular.
Now he’s fighting for life.
To me this case is another confirmation that it isn’t the sport that saves the person, it’s himself. The sport can give an athlete a chance, but it’s how the opportunity is used that makes the difference.
As Camacho has shown, sports can open doors to success, but they can’t make choices for you.