Puerto Rico says adios to boxer 'Macho' Camacho

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Family, fans and fellow boxers said goodbye Tuesday to Hector "Macho" Camacho at a memorial and

wake for the slain former world champion fighter known for his flamboyance in and out of the ring.

Hundreds of people filed past Camacho's open casket, displayed inside a gymnasium decked out for the occasion with black carpet

and curtains. The boxer wore white, along with a large gold crucifix and a necklace spelling out his nickname, "Macho," in

capital letters.

First up were members of his immediate family, including his mother, Maria Matias, who wept and caressed her son's face in

the coffin, which was draped in a Puerto Rican flag. "They killed him," she wailed at one point.

Camacho was shot Nov. 20 while sitting in a

parked car with a friend outside a bar in Bayamon, his hometown. The

friend died

at the scene and the boxer three days later after doctors removed

him from life support. Police have said they have suspects

but have not yet arrested anyone for the shooting.

After the family, came a cross-section of Puerto Rican society that included parents with young children, the elderly, road

crew workers in neon safety vests, U.S. soldiers in uniform and a who's who of Puerto Rican boxers.

"Everybody loved him here in Puerto Rico,"

said Henry Neumann, the secretary of the U.S. island territory's sports

and recreation

department. "He is one of those athletes who transcended the

barriers of his country not only for his skill inside the ring

but for his personality."

Camacho, who was 50 when he died, left

Puerto Rico as a child and moved to New York. He went on to win super


lightweight and junior welterweight world titles in the 1980s and

fought high-profile bouts against Felix Trinidad, Julio

Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard. He had a career record of

79-6-3 and was a showman in the ring, chanting "It's Macho time"

before fights and wearing garish jewelry.

He battled drug and alcohol problems throughout his life and had frequent run-ins with police. When he was shot, police found

an open package of cocaine in the car and nine unopened packages on his friend.

A police officer in Bayamon, Raul Nazario, recalled at the wake how he saw Camacho one day and drove over in his squad car

to greet him, but the boxer fled. Later, out of uniform, the officer said he ran into him again and they exchanged a laugh

and Camacho posed with him for a photo.

"For Puerto Rican people he was something great," Nazario said.

Many of those in attendance had similar

personal encounters. Doris Correa, a 71-year-old from the town of Vega

Baja, showed

a photo she took of Camacho in the 1980s, when her family and his

happened to be camping in the same campground in the island's

southwest. At one point, he grabbed a microphone, declared "it's

Macho time," and began singing for everyone. "Back then,

we didn't know what karaoke was," she said. "He invented it."

Boxer Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez, one of several dozen fighters on hand to say goodbye, recalled Camacho's dazzling speed

in the ring. "He was definitely a showman," he said. "It was something grandiose."

The memorial and wake was scheduled to last

two days. Family members have not yet announced the location and date of

the funeral.

His lawyer, Linda George, told Radio Isla 1320 that it would be in

New York.