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Ex-boxer 'Macho' Camacho on life support after shooting

By Danica Coto & Ben Fox

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:48 a.m. HST, Nov 22, 2012


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico >> Famed Puerto Rican boxer Hector "Macho" Camacho is clinically brain dead, doctors said today, though they said family members were disagreeing on whether to take him off life support.

Dr. Ernesto Torres said doctors have finished performing all medical tests on Camacho, who was shot in the face Tuesday night.

"We have done everything we could," said Torres, who is the director of the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan. "We have to tell the people of Puerto Rico and the entire world that Macho Camacho has died, he is brain dead."

He said at a news conference that the family expects to say by Friday if Camacho should remain on life support.

Torres said Camacho's father has already indicated that he wants the boxer taken off life support and his organs donated, but one of his sisters opposes the idea.

"This is a very difficult moment," he said.

Ismael Leandry, a longtime friend and former manager, told reporters that Camacho's mother also is wavering on taking her son off life support and would like more time with him. He said the family is waiting for Camacho's oldest son to arrive Thursday night before having a family reunion and making a decision.

"Let's remember him as a good man," Leandry said. "He was a good father, a good son."

Steve Tannenbaum, a friend and a former boxing agent for Camacho, said in a phone interview that he idolized Camacho as a boxer.

"He is one of the greatest small fighters that I have ever seen," he said. "Hector Camacho had a legendary status."

Tannenbaum said he initially believed Camacho would survive. "He was almost like the indestructible man. He had so many troubles with the law, so many altercations in his life. It's a great shame."

The 50-year-old Camacho was shot as he and a friend sat in a Ford Mustang parked outside a bar Tuesday night. Police spokesman Alex Diaz said officers found nine small bags of cocaine in the friend's pocket, and a 10th bag open inside the car. Camacho's friend, identified as 49-year-old Adrian Mojica Moreno, was killed in the attack.

Doctors had initially said Camacho was expected to survive, but his condition worsened and his heart stopped briefly overnight Tuesday, Torres said. The bullet entered his jaw and lodged in his shoulder after tearing through three of four main arteries in his neck, affecting blood flow through his brain, doctors said.

"That lack of oxygen greatly damaged Macho Camacho's brain," Torres said.

Torres had said late Wednesday that Camacho was still showing irregular and intermittent brain activity.

Camacho was born in Bayamon, a city within the San Juan metropolitan area, but he grew up mostly in New York's Harlem neighborhood, earning the nickname "the Harlem Heckler."

He won super lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight world titles in the 1980s and fought high-profile bouts against Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard. Camacho knocked out Leonard in 1997, ending the former champ's final comeback attempt.

Camacho has a career record of 79-6-3.

In recent years, he divided his time between Puerto Rico and Florida, appearing regularly on Spanish-language television as well as on a reality show called "Es Macho Time!" on YouTube. In San Juan, he had been living in the beach community of Isla Verde, where he would readily pose for photos with tourists who recognized him on the street, said former pro boxer Victor "Luvi" Callejas, a neighbor and friend.

Camacho battled drugs, alcohol and other problems throughout his life. He was sentenced in 2007 to seven years in prison for the burglary of a computer store in Mississippi. While arresting him on the burglary charge in January 2005, police also found the drug ecstasy.

A judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence and gave Camacho probation. He wound up serving two weeks in jail, though, after violating that probation.

His wife also filed domestic abuse complaints against him twice before their divorce several years ago.hooting in his Puerto Rican hometown left the former boxing champion clinging to life and his fans mourning the loss of a dynamic and often troubled athlete.

Doctors at the Centro Medico trauma center in San Juan found that Camacho had irregular and intermittent brain activity late today, said Dr. Ernesto Torres, the center’s director.

“We can’t declare him brain dead,” he said. “We’re going to ask the people of Puerto Rico to keep praying.”

Torres said doctors will conduct additional tests early Thursday but warned the prognosis remains dire.

“The changes have been more negative than positive,” he said, adding that Camacho does not have enough blood coursing through his brain.

Doctors initially had said Camacho was in critical, but stable condition and expected to survive after he was shot Tuesday night in the city of Bayamon. But his condition worsened overnight and his heart stopped at one point, Torres said.

The 50-year-old Camacho was shot as he and a friend sat in a Ford Mustang parked outside a bar. Police spokesman Alex Diaz said officers found nine small bags of cocaine in the friend’s pocket, and a 10th bag open inside the car. 

Camacho’s mother, who flew in today from New York, will lead the discussion about whether he should be removed from life support, said Ismael Leandry, a longtime friend and former manager who was also at the hospital.

“We just have to wait to see if ‘Macho’ gets better. It’s a hard battle,” Leandry told The Associated Press as he joined friends and family outside the emergency room.

Torres said Camacho’s mother, Maria Matias, spent about 20 minutes with her son, one of the most dynamic boxing personalities of his era, and was expected to return for a second visit tonight. 

“His mother came and she is devastated,” he said. “She knows the prognosis is not at all favorable.”

A godson, Widniel Adorno, said the family has discussed the possibility of organ donation but no final decision has been made.

Camacho’s friend, identified as 49-year-old Adrian Mojica Moreno, was killed in the attack. Police said two assailants fled in an SUV but no arrests have been made and no motive has been disclosed.

Camacho was rushed to Centro Medico, where doctors initially said the bullet passed through his jaw and lodged in his shoulder. Torres said the bullet damaged three of the four main arteries in his neck and fractured two vertebrae, which could leave him paralyzed if he were to survive. 

Steve Tannenbaum, who has also represented Camacho in the past, had been told earlier by friends at the hospital that the boxer would make it.

“This guy is a cat with nine lives. He’s been through so much,” he said. “If anybody can pull through it will be him.”

Friends and family members waited anxiously at the hospital, fondly recalling Camacho’s high-energy personality and his powerful skills in the ring. 

“He was like a little brother who was always getting into trouble,” said former featherweight champion Juan Laporte, a fellow Puerto Rican who grew up and trained with Camacho in New York. 

Camacho has been considered one of the more controversial figures in boxing, but also popular among fans and those who worked in the sport.

“The Macho Man was a promoter’s dream,” renowned promoter Don King told AP. “He excited boxing fans around the world with his inimitable style. He was a nice, amiable guy away from the ring.”

King had promoted Camacho but was caught off guard by news of the attack on the former champion.  “What a tragedy this is,” he said. “I’m very sorry for Hector and his family. My prayers go out to him.”

The fighter’s last title bout came against then-welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya in 1997, a loss by unanimous decision. He last fought in May 2010, losing to Saul Duran. Tannenbaum said they were looking at a possible bout in 2013.

“We were talking comeback even though he is 50,” he said. “I felt he was capable of it.”

Camacho was born in Bayamon, one of the cities that make up the San Juan metropolitan area

He left Puerto Rico as a child and grew up mostly in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, one of the reasons he later earned the nickname “the Harlem Heckler.” 

He went on to win super lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight world titles in the 1980s.

Camacho has fought other high-profile bouts in his career against Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard. Camacho knocked out Leonard in 1997, ending what was that former champ’s final comeback attempt.

Camacho has a career record of 79-6-3.

In recent years, he has divided his time between Puerto Rico and Florida, appearing regularly on Spanish-language television as well as on a reality show called “Es Macho Time!” on YouTube. In San Juan, he had been living in the beach community of Isla Verde, where he would obligingly pose for photos with tourists who recognized him on the street, said former pro boxer Victor “Luvi” Callejas, a neighbor and friend.

“We all know what Macho Camacho has done, but in the last couple of months he hasn’t been in any trouble,” Callejas said as he kept vigil outside the hospital. “He has been taking it easy. He’s been upbeat.” 

Drug, alcohol and other problems have trailed Camacho since the prime of his boxing career. He was sentenced in 2007 to seven years in prison for the burglary of a computer store in Mississippi. While arresting him on the burglary charge in January 2005, police also found the drug ecstasy.

A judge eventually suspended all but one year of the sentence and gave Camacho probation. He wound up serving two weeks in jail, though, after violating that probation.

His wife also filed domestic abuse complaints against him twice before their divorce several years ago.

————

Associated Press writer David Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this report.






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