Hector (Macho) Camacho never lived up to his nickname better than he did last Sunday afternoon before the boxing fans who have doubted him the most—native Puerto Ricans. Fighting before a crowd of 10,000 in San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Camacho slashed and banged his way to the WBC's vacant super featherweight title (130 pounds) with a fifth-round TKO of Rafael (Bazooka) Limon, a 29-year-old veteran who had no defense for the speed and power of the 21-year-old Macho Man. His victory was so convincing, his style so commanding, that he is unquestionably boxing's ascending star. Certainly Camacho himself doesn't doubt that one bit.
"Everything's on schedule," he said before the fight. "I just developed into a fighter faster than anyone thought possible. I started doing things that veterans haven't done. From then on I just showed the world. They remembered my name—'Macho Camacho! Macho Camacho!' They remembered my style. I couldn't be stopped."
Certainly not by Limon, ranked No. 3 going in, and probably not by any of the other top WBC contenders, either. As champion, Bobby Chacon twice avoided mandatory defenses against Camacho, the last dodge causing the WBC to strip him of the title, thus creating the vacancy. "Anyway, Chacon and Limon have fought so many times [four, with Chacon winning twice, Limon once, and one draw] that beating Limon's like beating Chacon," Camacho said. Rafael Solis, now the No. 1 contender, and Cornelius Boza-Edwards, No. 4, don't have the talent, style or charisma to match Camacho, who is now 22-0 overall and 7-0 on CBS.
Camacho earned a reported $150,000 for his destruction of Limon, but the big-money fights will come when he gains weight. He could easily move up to 135 pounds for fights against either of the lightweight champions, Ray Mancini (WBA) or Edwin Rosario (WBC). But first he likely will put his title on the line against Puerto Rico's Wilfredo Gomez, a former super bantamweight champion. Camacho must make a mandatory title defense against either Solis or Boza-Edwards, but the WBC may allow him to fight Gomez first. It would be in San Juan, of course. Said Camacho, "Before I came here [to fight Limon], the Puerto Rican people doubted me. The biggest thing here is Gomez, but now the people know who the Macho Man is."
Limon certainly found out who and what the Macho Man is. Camacho steamed into the ring in leopard-spotted trunks, jacket to match and a red, white and blue Puerto Rican hat, and began his wild dance-and-jab act. Limon, for his part, had crept into the ring almost unnoticed at least 10 minutes before Camacho showed. It was as if Limon knew he was to be a bit player.
Limon was not an entirely unworthy opponent, though. He had engaged in six world-title fights, winning three of those championship bouts, and he felt this would be to his advantage against Camacho. Still, Chacon would've been a better opponent for Camacho, if only because Chacon beat Limon (last December) and Boza-Edwards (in May) in his most recent outings. But when the WBC couldn't get Chacon to fight Camacho, it stripped his title and set up the Camacho-Limon match. "We cannot accept outlaws, and Chacon is an outlaw, at least according to the bylaws of the WBC," said WBC President José Sulaimàn. Chacon, however, filed suit to regain his title, and his case will be heard on Sept. 8 in the Superior Court of California.
In deference to that action, Sulaimàn decided to call the Camacho-Limon fight an "interim championship." That was a lot of balderdash to the Camacho and Limon people. "They got the belt here, ain't they?" said Camacho's manager-trainer, Billy Giles. "And they gave it to Camacho after the fight, ain't that right?" That's sure what Camacho was wearing around his waist at his victory party Sunday night at the Palace Hotel.
A buzz saw, not a belt, whipped Limon. Camacho leaped out of his corner at the opening bell and chased Limon backward, nearly bowling him over in the first 10 seconds. Camacho dominated that round, as well as the second, while Limon was able only to send out his long, slow, looping rights and lefts. Near the end of the third round, Camacho, who had been scoring primarily with his right, sent a straight left out of nowhere to Limon's cheek and put him down. Near the end of the fourth, Camacho again caught Limon with a left, then followed up with a flurry of rights that sent him careening against the ropes.
By this time it was obvious that Limon, who many times in his 11-year pro career (he's now 47-13-2) had given up the early rounds only to battle back, was on borrowed time. Camacho was doing exactly what Giles, who's somewhat of a street bard, had said he would do: "We're going to be a bartender at first, getting him a little drunk. Then, when he's good and drunk, we're going to mug him." In the fifth Camacho doubled up Limon with two body shots and sent him down in the center of the ring. Camacho's power, which he increased sparring with a welterweight, Boo Boo Sawyer, was impressive. Limon got up, but a few seconds later he was sent down and through the ropes near his corner. He got up again, but when Camacho continued his relentless attack, Referee Richard Steele wisely stopped the fight. It was Camacho's 12th knockout.
While Camacho and his supporters danced wildly around the ring, Limon sat in his corner and wept softly. Later he would say he had a problem with his weight (he had said on Saturday morning that his weight was fine) and with the heat (it was 93° at fight time), which are things all old warriors say. Finally, he admitted: "He hits hard with both hands, but it's his speed that's too much."
To this point, Camacho's macho act has not been too much to take. In a sport that hardly needs another bag of wind or a media creation, Camacho has been the real thing, displaying talent in the ring and a quick wit out of it.
The Limon fight was Camacho's first in his native land (he was born in Bayamón, a small town near San Juan, and moved to New York with his mother three years later), though he often goes there to visit family. For five weeks he stayed at the Palace Hotel and trained at the Benito Ortiz Gymnasium in the barrio of Obrero. There were more than enough distractions during his training, particularly for a young man like Camacho, who is easily distracted.
"A lot of girls I didn't know would leave messages," he said before the fight. "And then my girl friend [Keesha Colon] would call for the messages and she'd ask me, 'Who's Nancy? Who's Diana?' I'd say, 'I don't know.' "
What Camacho does know is that Wilfred Benitez, Rosario and Gomez, in particular, while all respected and admired in Puerto Rico, would lose a personality contest to him in the first round. "I talk to Benitez and Gomez and try to be real friendly," Camacho says. "But they don't seem to want to talk. A while back I see Rosario driving around my area at 115th and Lexington in New York. I'm all dressed up in my leather things—I wear leather a lot, you know—and I wave to him, real friendly like. But he just looks away from me.
"I know I've gotten this far because I can talk and I can smile. People go for it."
Giles sees it this way: "There was Ali's time, Duran's time and Leonard's time. Now it's Camacho's time."
If boxing fans can go for all that leather, and Camacho's opponents can't take it, then Giles is probably correct.