Yes, Hector Camacho Jr watched Mike Tyson do his thing on Nov. 28, and thought of his pop. Yes, he watched Teofimo Lopez take out the technical wizard Vasiliy Lomachenko Oct. 17, and thought of “Macho.”
Junior is 42 years old, and he lost his dad in 2012, when Hector Sr was 50 years old. And but of course, not a day goes by when he doesn't think about the fighting pride of Spanish Harlem, who exploded like a human bottle rocket, throwing off sparks galore, and then flamed out when he was gunned down in Puerto Rico.
“Macho” has been on his mind that much more, of late, because he knew that the documentary put together by Eric Drath would be hitting Showtime soon.
Indeed, the doc, “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story,” unspools at 9 PM tonight (Friday), on the premium cable platform.
I talked to the son of the mercurial and often majestic ringmaster, and came away impressed with him. He sure sounds like he's got a good handle on himself, and isn't allowing some circumstance that could, honestly, leave scars of psychic trauma that continue to radiate pain, drop and stop him.
Junior, who followed, to a degree, in dad's footsteps, fought as a pro and crafted a 59-7-1 record (from 1996 to 2019). He's working on his own project, a reality series called “Growing Up Camacho.”
“It will show people the inside,” he told me. “People think I was born with a silver spoon, but I was in an NYC ghetto, and I got picked on. Kids would say, ‘You're Macho's son? Let's fight!”'
So, he had that on his plate, and it wasn't like he could always go back to the apartment, and get soothing words of advice from Macho.
If you aren't familair with the capital “c” character that is Camacho, watch that Drath doc tonight, the producer does a wonderful job laying out what made Macho special, and also his multiple missteps, which made plenty of people think that no, he'd not be the type to live to a grand old age.
“I didn't really have a father figure around,” Junior admitted to me, but he is not simmering in a stew of resentment today. He's in an acceptance mode, understanding that his father did the best he could at the time, and that dad battled demons which were stronger and possessed more stamina than anything either Camacho faced in the the ring.
“No, he was not a traditional father,” Junior said. Macho's boy became a Muslim, and got grounded in a faith which was apparent as he spoke on his dad's colorful life arc with poise. He wants to work on projects which speak to and lift up kids who have fallen between the cracks, and are already hearing from people, and then in taped replays in their head, that they won't amount to much.
Right now, he's living in Panama, and doing planning for the program, which will mix boxing, after-school type programs, with music and chess and the like, and there will be tutors, to help kids with school work. “To keep them off the streets,” Junior stated. Yes, he is hoping, some lives will be saved, of kids that would otherwise succumb to the allure of street-easy dopamine surges.
As far as the film goes, film-maker Drath and he got to know each other, and he sees the New York artist as a friend. Drath called Junior after his dad died, with condolences, and they've kept in touch some since then. “Now is definitely the right time to look at my fathers' life, and Eric is the right person. Eric's view on my father matched my take. People tend to focus on drugs, call my father a coke-head, but with all he accomplished?”
We talked about substance use and abuse, and I shared my stance that I believe the vast majority of people who use harder drugs are self medicating. When mental illnesses and conditions, or character disorders, are not diagnosed, people take self care into their own hands. A person with depression might gravitate toward stimulants, to get a mood boost. People prone to anxiety might find themselves drawn to opiates, to lessen the sting felt in existence, which comes with it, by definition, mental and emotional duress. “There you go, that's the facts,” Junior said. We spoke more about how fame can fuck with you, as it did with his dad, giving him notoriety and money, but not so much in the way of directions for use. “He was a party animal, you can't hide that. But I never judged my dad. I watched his back, actually, like a dog, loyal.”
I put it to him, a direct question…Did he or does he ever wish he had a ‘normal' dad?
“There were pros and cons,” he said. “I didn't like the attention, but there was good, with the bad. Hey, life was designed by God….He lived a fast life, like a rock star.”
Yes, Junior could sense from fairly early on that a tragic end for Macho was possible. “But he lived life on his terms, and he lived a beautiful life, he can be proud what he left as a legacy. It's hard for me to be sad! People lift me up, people who knew him, because they knew he was a crazy guy on the outside, but inside he was a good man. He was cocky, he wasn't arrogant.”
And we talked some about that Teofimo Lopez, born in Brooklyn, having some of that same cocky but not arrogant manner, and also fast hands, and an ‘it factor.'
As you watch the doc, you might think of Junior, and how hard it had to be, maybe, as he learned the trade, and did the boxing thing. “When I was young, getting into boxing, my goal was to be me. I didn't want to become world champion. I did KO Nation, on HBO, and my dad was on the undercard. That was an achievement (like a world championship)!”
More about the movie. Has he watched it? Not the whole thing, when we talked last week. “I sometimes wouldn't see him for four-five months. So…. I might watch, and I don't want to judge, or start getting depressed if I think about it.” He did, it ends up, watch the whole thing, and his verdict? “It was dope!”
We talked more, about mental health issues in America, and how immense the issue is, and how as a nation we don't do nearly enough about it. And we moved to sunnier topics. His kids are 21 and 8, two girls, and he sounds content with how he's handled fathering.
And that is an achievement superior to title belts, in my mind. Because a little kid is more impressed with having a dad who is there, to talk to, to play with in the park…That means more than dad having some championship belts in a trophy case.
“I know I will never be as good as him in the ring, but outside the ring, I am and want to be a bad motherfucker, in a good way. I plan to extend his legacy. He never opened a gym in NY. I could help kids, lots of kids. My didn't do it. And yes, I'm planning to get deeper into promotion, managing, and marketing boxing. I wanna help boxing,” Junior said. “People retire broke, they have no retirement plan, we've seen it millions of times in boxing!”