Hector “Macho” Camacho (1962-2012) was posthumously inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Sunday, which took me back to the strangest day in my 38 years as a sportswriter.
Macho, a world-title holder in three divisions, lived and trained on a piece of property in rural Hendry County for a time, out from Clewiston, out of sight. There I made an unannounced visit on him in 1988 and for my troubles was treated to something too crazy for a comedy skit and too spooky for real life.
I tried to get most of it in a column for the next morning’s Post, including him wondering if the nearby farm land could be rezoned for use as a “Macho World” amusement park he wanted to open. A lot of the other stuff just got left out because there was too much going on in his mind to fit in one edition of the daily newspaper.
In 2012, when Camacho was shot dead while sitting in a parked car in Puerto Rico, I wrote the column you see below recalling my encounter with the boxer. Even now it reads like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie.
By Dave George
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Nov. 27, 2012
My one encounter with the late Hector “Macho” Camacho started with the cautious push of a security gate button. Out bounded the attack dogs. Up rose the heart rate.
Maybe, the thought arose, it would have been wise to tell family and friends where this particular work assignment had taken me, driving some 20 miles past Clewiston and down a two-lane county road to the backyard training camp of a famously unhinged boxer who had just that week been arrested for aggravated assault and possession of cocaine.
This was 1988, close to Macho’s prime as a lightning-fisted champion and a flamboyant self-promoter, and it was the period during his career that most fight fans thought of Saturday upon hearing the news of Camacho’s death in Puerto Rico from a gunshot wound.
He was a showman, all right, and a great draw in matches with Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Julio Cesar Chavez.
On that long-ago day, however, the mission was to get Macho’s version of an incident that was holding up a deal for a fight with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.
A Clewiston High School student had reported an argument with Camacho on school grounds, with the worst of the accusation being that the boxer had waved a gun at him and threatened to kill him.
Now, unannounced and uninvited, a young reporter was on the property of Camacho’s home in the modest subdivision of Montura Ranch Estates. Someone shouted from a second-story window to come in and wait because Macho was in Miami picking up a friend at the airport and wouldn’t be back for a while.
Turns out he was sleeping in a back bedroom all along because, soon enough, the Macho Man appeared. Silent and sullen, he pushed aside a curtain of bright beads that was hanging in the doorway. He wore a skimpy pair of leopard-pattern briefs and nothing more.
Conversation, naturally, was out of the question at that point, but after some time Camacho lapsed into a rambling monologue as he paced rapidly about the room, sometimes plopping into a chair for a second or two but always talking, always spinning the story of his innocence, always professing his love for the people of Clewiston.
“This is the best place in the world for me to train and focus on what I want to do,” said Macho, a kid from Spanish Harlem who trained in an outdoor ring with a sand floor during his Clewiston days.
“This town doesn’t have any big buildings or anything. There are too many people without jobs. I want to buy all of this Montura Ranch area and build a shopping center, a fire department, everything. I want to build houses all up and down here and let people have them with an option to buy.
“I’ll make this Macho World, International.”
There was more rambling, much more, and all of it framed within what Camacho explained to me as his overarching philosophy of life — “I like to be mysterious, unpredictable, exciting, sexy. I’m like a light, going in and out of space.”
Many manic hours later, Camacho steered his guest into a side room, where several sparring partners were awakened from their naps so that a videotape could be popped into the television.
Suddenly everyone was treated to a recorded episode of Macho dancing and singing on a Puerto Rican television show, and everyone was strongly encouraged to dance and sing along. Eventually, faking an illness or something, I escaped.
Whatever happened to the gun and drug charges from 1988 is buried somewhere in the archives of the Hendry County clerk’s records and not immediately retrievable by workers there by the end of business Monday. File it under “mysterious,” along with all the other arrests and probations that kept Camacho in the headlines between fights.
He lived in Clewiston for only a handful of years, but that one afternoon in the Macho Man’s house played out like a decade at least.
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