Hector Camacho funeral brings end to one crazy ride

In life and death, Hector "Macho" Camacho was a mercurial spirit.

His legacy is etched in controversy and chaos, and an indisputable charisma that made him such a beloved wild child.

He will be buried Saturday morning at Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx, just a day after taking a final ride through the streets of East Harlem. In typical Camacho style, he leaves us with a few crazy parting shots.

A fight broke out between his girlfriend, another woman who claimed to be his girlfriend, and Camacho's sisters during the second day of a three-day wake and viewing for Camacho in Puerto Rico this week.

There was a food tossed about, hair pulling and scratching.

Macho Time -- excitement and excess -- knows no bounds, even in death.

He was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, but grew up in the slums of New York's Spanish Harlem to become a three-time world champion. He won his first professional fight in 1980, and last fought in Kissimmee in 2010, finishing with a record of 79-6-3, with 38 knockouts.

Gutter to greatness is a standard narrative for many boxers, including Mike Tyson.

The Macho Man could relate to Iron Mike.

A flamboyant, dramatic guy in the ring, Camacho offered fight fans everything they could want. He was a brilliant tactician in the ring, a defensive whiz kid who energized the crowd not only with his ringmanship, but with the wild outfits he wore.

Which was your favorite? The Roman gladiator's outfit? The loincloth? The American Indian theme, complete with headdress?

It was a fun ride with Camacho all those years, especially during his dominant run in the 1980s.

But there was that dark side, which cannot be ignored, despite the tragic circumstances of his death after he was shot in the face while riding in a car in Puerto Rico. The wounds were not survivable, and Camacho was taken off life support. He died at age 50.

As great as he was, he often tripped over his own excesses and immaturity. It was the usual litany of temptation and vice: drugs, women, fast cars, too many late night fiestas. On the night of the shooting. police found an open package of cocaine in the car and nine unopened packages on the driver, a friend who was killed.

"When you make all this kind of money and you become drawn to that manhood, sometimes it's hard to abandon all the teenagerhood,'' Camacho once told me ''At times that boy always got me in trouble because the boy don't want to realize that he's a man, and he's got responsibility to his fame and career. It's hard."

You wonder if that edge helped fuel his greatness, or if it got in the way.

At one point in his career, he had won his past 20 fights, with one draw, including a fifth-round knockout over 40-year-old Sugar Ray Leonard that marked the highlight of a resurgence. Then he fought Oscar De La Hoya in September of 1997. Bob Arum's promotional spin -- ''Opposites Attack'' -- reflected the distinctive personalities in the ring.

But he lost to De La Hoya by unanimous decision, marking the last big run of his career.

I was there that night. In Camacho's dressing room actually. We knew each other well -- he had a home in Central Florida for quite some time -- and he was often gracious and kind. He could also be a bit of a jerk, but that's what you would often get with Camacho.

I remember his entourage screaming, "What time is it?"

And then they would scream in unison, "Macho time!"

I also noticed that I was in the frame of the HBO pay-per-view view cameras, so I ducked out of the picture in the spirit of objectivity.

I figured it was best to stay away from the spotlight.

Camacho never did.

For all the missteps along the way, "Macho Time" was one great and crazy ride.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com He is a regular contributor on the Joel Greenberg Show weekdays 4-6pm on 810 AM Yahoo! Sports Radio Orlando.

CHICAGO

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