ORLANDO – Unless you’re into Mickey Mouse, bone fishing or NASCAR, there isn’t a lot to do in Orlando on an off-night for the Magic. Yet not even a slow evening in Hooterville apparently could inspire the local newspaper here to cover an eight-round boxing match between two former world champions Saturday night. Sadly, if you went to watch you could see why. Ignoring a fight between two former world champions may say something about the state of sports coverage in Orlando but it says more about 46-year-old Hector “Macho’’ Camacho and 37-year-old Yory Boy Campas, who saw their fight end up on the outskirts of the Universal Studio complex here because the state of New Jersey refused to license Camacho last week after watching him spar. Yet Camacho was able to find a state that would license him within in days after New Jersey’s decision little more than a week after 50-year-old Greg Page, the former heavyweight champion, died of complications from injuries he sustained several years back from fighting when he was well past his prime and ill-prepared to still be boxing professionally. Apparently, the fight game is one place that never learns from its mistakes.
If the state of New Jersey won’t have you boxing in its state, what does that say about your own state? Hard to know but watching Hector “Not-so-Macho-any-more’’ Camacho (79-5-3, 38 KO) wrestle and grope Yory “No-Longer-A-Boy’’ Campas (92-14-1, 74 KO) for most of the night would have at least made you wonder how Camacho ever got the nickname “Macho’’ in the first place. You’d wonder unless you saw him the night he fought off relentless Edwin Rosario at Madison Square Garden 23 years ago. Or the night he stopped Bazooka Limon. Or on a lot of other nights that came many years before last Saturday night did. That was the Camacho many thought might end up a legend somewhere other than in his own mind. But those fights seemed a lifetime ago watching Camacho, once so quick and resourceful, plodding around and wrestling with Campas like two Golden Glovers who really didn’t want to be engaging in a boxing match if it could be avoided. The only saving grace was that the bout was only eight rounds, a distance traditionally for preliminary kids which these guys surely are not. The question then is what are they? Camacho had fought only once in the past four years and Campas had lost four of his last five fights and was 7-8 in his last 15. Guys like this, former world champions who made names for themselves when youth and skill was on their side but not enough money to walk away, fight on at 46 and 37 respectively only because life has become a more difficult fight than boxing ever was. They fight because they need money but, as the state of New Jersey made clear with its refusal to license Camacho, there comes a time when need is not the issue. Fear should be the issue. Fear that damage may be done to them that cannot be repaired. Camacho and Campas fought in a ballroom at the Double Tree Hotel because no one else would have them. They fought on pay-per-view because no cable network, including the often stinker-producing shows on ESPN2, would have dared to televise such a fight. It is unlikely many people bought the match, especially with Chad Dawson defending his light heavyweight title on HBO against Antonio Tarver after a free replay of the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight of a week ago and certainly few Orlando natives cared to show up live. They’d rather watch the Magic practice layups and who could blame them? Which would you have chosen? Flipping to regular HBO to watch Pacquiao, Hatton, Dawson and Tarver or pay to see Macho Camacho hug Yory Boy Campas for a half an hour? “I’ve fought for 15 years and no one has hugged me so much, not even my wife,’’ Campas said after a draw was announced. “It was more like a wrestling fight.’’ No, actually, it was more like what usually goes on in a hotel ballroom. A lot of hugging and some dancing. The only thing missing was the wedding cake. What is sad about this is not that Camacho and Campas find it necessary to embarrass themselves and make a mockery of the skills they once had in this way because unfortunately that has a long tradition in boxing for old former champions down on their luck. What is sad is that a sport that annually pulls in millions and millions of dollars around the world takes such poor care of fighters like these two, who once helped generate that kind of income when they were young and fierce and fun to watch. Why no one involved on the business side of boxing isn’t utterly ashamed enough to do something real about this is unfathomable but I can assure they are not. Shame is not much in evidence in boxing, as Saturday night’s Camacho-Campas fight proved once again, and neither is some sort of pension fund for fighters. Some of the promoters feeding off fighters would argue a farce like Saturday night’s fight was actually an opportunity for two guys to keep making a living at their chosen craft. Hopefully they’ll go to confession after saying that but I wouldn’t count on it. Camacho suggested after the fight was called a draw that, “We had no losers.’’ He was wrong there. Losers were really all they had on a hot Saturday night in Orlando and once again you could count the sport of boxing among them.
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