'Macho Time' lives on in Spanish Harlem

Hector "Macho" Camacho left behind a lasting impression on his New York neighborhood of El Barrio. RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

As the wind swirled around Lexington Avenue in Spanish Harlem, blowing away the fall leaves around Hector "Macho" Camacho's old neighborhood in El Barrio on Saturday afternoon, friends and family recalled the gracefulness and impact that the late former champion had on the community before his tragic death.

Camacho, 50, was removed from life support and pronounced dead early Saturday morning in San Juan, Puerto Rico, just four days after he was shot while sitting inside a parked car in Bayamon, the town where the colorful champion was born.

His life was plagued by bouts with drugs and alcohol that were hard to knock out the way he punished the 45 fighters he sent to the canvass.

Camacho's friends and followers recalled the outgoing side of their champion.

As Milciades Taveras perfected another mohawk on a customer, the Dominican barber remembered those times when it was Macho Time inside Los Muchachos Barbershop.

"Macho would come here and talk about how he boxed and what he was going to do and all that," Taveras told ESPNdeportes.com, while pointing out a framed picture of Camacho alongside another great Puerto Rican fighter, Felix "Tito" Trinidad.

Taveras joked about trying to chop off Macho Camacho's signature strand of hair that was perfectly curled in front of his forehead. Taveras said that Camacho would jokingly get up from the chair in protest.

"We'd give him his haircut, but he didn't want his little ponytail touched. You had to leave that little ponytail alone," Taveras said.

Taveras recalled the times when Camacho would appear at the barbershop a day after boxing and would treat everyone out for a good time. He said the money Camacho earned in the prizefights and the fame he cultivated from being in the ring never changed him one bit.

The members of the El Barrio community who have been suffering since Tuesday night not only saw Camacho as their friend and a good athlete, but more importantly a brother.

"As soon as he came to New York, this was the first place he came to. Hector Camacho was a good friend. He was one of our brothers. He grew up here in El Barrio. Nothing was going to happen to him in El Barrio," Taveras said.

As you walked down Lexington Avenue near where Camacho grew up and hung out with his friends and family members, you could picture Camacho moving to the tunes of El Gran Combo that were blaring out of the speakers at El Barrio Music Center on a day when many were mourning Macho's passing.

Its owner, Reynaldo Melendez, proudly showed a picture he had taken standing next to Camacho during his many visits to the shop where he would buy the latest salsa tapes and CDs. Melendez recalled a good-humored Camacho entering the store and playing with his son.

"He would joke around with everyone," Melendez said. "On one occasion he took my son and he threw about 20 punches in the air, playing with him."

Aside from Camacho's personal problems, Melendez described Camacho as "a great boxer. A man of the streets. A man of his town. The people loved him."

A family member who resides in the housing projects where Camacho is beloved by many and seen as a folk hero was proud of everything his cousin had accomplished, especially coming out of a tough neighborhood where the numbers are always stacked against everyone.

"My cousin showed everybody love. When he came around, when he came across, he inspired. He had a great personality," Luis Muniz said. "I know that it devastated a lot of people out here because he is a Boricua that made it. He was a great boxer. He had great personality. He showed everybody love. He was never cocky."

El Barrio is weeping at the loss of its son this very moment, but rest assured that Macho Time will forever live in the hearts of those who were touched by his profound kindness.