Sunday, November 25, 2012

The End of the Macho Man

During his lifetime, I sometimes heard Hector "Macho" Camacho compared to Muhammad Ali.

And I could see certain similarities. Both were dynamic and charismatic. Matt Schubel writes in the Washington Post of Camacho's "theatrical presence" in the ring.

Like Ali, he was also a gifted fighter, faster than any of his contemporaries and possessed of a style unlike any of his rivals.

Some people would even extend the comparison to include both fighters' brushes with the law — but, while the law is the law and, technically speaking, there is no real difference between a violation of one law and a violation of another, there are differences between Ali and Camacho.

Justice is supposed to be blind. In that sense, all laws are created equal.

But not all crimes are created equal.

With the exception of claiming conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War, Ali has — to my knowledge — observed the laws of his homeland, even those with which he may have disagreed.

He became a cultural lightning rod with his refusal to fight in Vietnam, and there are still those who berate him for it. He served no time in prison, but he was stripped of his title and did not fight for nearly four years — a boxer's prime years — until the matter had been resolved in court.

No court ruling could restore to Ali what had been taken from him, but he went on to become the first three–time heavyweight champion, anyway.

Camacho, on the other hand, "was continually shadowed by drug problems and legal entanglements," writes Schubel. That may well have been what brought about the end of his life.

Camacho was shot in the face Tuesday while he sat in a car in Puerto Rico and was taken off life support yesterday. A companion also was killed in what was an apparent ambush, and cocaine reportedly was found on the scene.

He embraced the persona of the "Macho Man" with the same relish that Ali boasted that he was "The Greatest," but there was a difference between them.

When he was growing up, Camacho was always getting into trouble of some kind. He claimed to have been expelled from half a dozen schools by the time he was 15. He had served time in jail by the time he was 17, and the self–professed "gutter kid" brought the behavior he had learned to the ring.

He was often criticized for using dirty tricks in the ring, but he was also capable of extraordinary things — like the time Julio Cesar Chavez won a brutal decision over him 20 years ago. Chavez was on a mission to knock out Camacho, but Camacho took everything that was thrown at him and was still standing at the end — "snarling through the blood," wrote Sports Illustrated's Pat Putnam.

Ironically, street crime did play a role in Ali's decision to take up boxing. At the age of 12, Ali had a brand–new bicycle, which was stolen when he left it unattended, prompting him to rant about what he would do to the thief if he caught him.

Ali was encouraged to "learn something about fighting," and Ali had found his path in life.

I always felt Camacho had more in common with Mike Tyson than Muhammad Ali.

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