Joe Bruno on Boxing – Hector Camacho

 

Who said a leopard can’t change its spots?


Hector “Macho” Camacho turned pro in New York city in 1980. At the time I was the boxing editor of the News World, a New York City Daily newspaper owned by the Reverend Sun Young Moon. Half the newspaper staff were Moonies, the other half non-Moonies like me. What did I care? As long as the good reverend didn’t try to convert me to the faith, or ask me to sell flowers near the Holland Tunnel. Also owned by Reverend Moon was the Spanish Daily newspaper Noticias Del Mundo. My daily boxing columns were translated into Spanish and also printed in De Mundo. This caused me a lot of grief with the Spanish community, and especially with Mr. Camacho.


From the first time we met,  Hector and I  hit it off like oil and water. Truthfully, I can’t remember the contents of one bad column I wrote about the Macho Man. But there were plenty. Hector was eighteen and I was around thirty. Two guys from the mean streets of Manhattan, where the main motto is, “Don’t take shit from anyone.” He didn’t. And neither did I. We clashed. We argued. We almost came to blows several times.


One time in Atlantic City, Camacho was fighting an Angelo Dundee fighter called Louie Burke. It was on national TV one Saturday afternoon when weekend daytime fights were the big rage on all three major networks. I think I must’ve written sometime negative about Camacho before the fight. Truthfully, I can’t remember.

In the third round Camacho decked Burke. He went to the neutral corner, where I was sitting in the first press row next to boxing writer Mike Katz, then of the New York Times. While the ref counted over Burke, Camacho stuck his glove between the ropes and flicked it at my nose. He missed me by inches. I don’t know if Camacho was trying to hit me, or maybe I had some lint on my nose and he was trying to help me out. Camacho won by a knockout soon after, and in the post-fight press conference, he had some pointed things to say about me and my hallowed brethren in the boxing press. I don’t remember what he said, but I certainly did not use his fiery words in any resumes I sent out in the future.


Late that night I was alone in the elevator heading either to, or from the Casinos. As God would have it, the elevator stopped and Camacho headed in by himself. We both had obviously been drinking. We sneered at each other for a moment, then shook hands and went  our separate ways.

Fast forward sixteen years later. I’m now retired and living in the sun-drenched splendor of sunny Sarasota, Florida. My friend Don Guercio (Donny G. to Sarasota TV fans) is part owner of Blab TV in Sarasota, Channel 36. He has a weekly sports program called “Let’s Talk Sports”, on which I occasionally appear. Through the  Internet, I found out that Camacho is now living in Orlando, less than two hours away from Sarasota. His training camp supervisor is former middleweight Alex Ramos, also from New York City. Through Ramos, I arranged to go to Camacho’s camp with a cameraman to film a spot for Donnie G’s show.


How will Camacho react to seeing his old nemesis? Did I need a bodyguard? The answers were great, and not in the least. We arrived a little early. Minutes later, Camacho drove up in his white Isuzu Trouper. The car stopped. Hector and Ramos got out of the car. My heart fluttered. My gut tightened. My biceps flexed. All for naught. When I extended my hand, Hector took it, hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. He said, “What ever’s past is past.” passed.”


I almost fainted.


The interview went well. Hector admitted in the interview that years ago he didn’t like me. But he also said he couldn’t remember the particulars of one single incident where we had clashed. And neither could I. After the interview was complete, we spent about an half an hour talking like old friends. No animosity. No nothing. Hell, the kid ( he’s not a kid anymore) is a damn good guy, and I regret not knowing this sooner.

A leopard can change his spots. Only I’m sure both us old leopards had a lot of changing to do to for me to come to this conclusion.

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