Of all the blows Hector Camacho Jr. has absorbed, the most devastating was inflicted by Hector Camacho Sr. "On my seventh birthday my dad told me he couldn't make the party," recalls the WBA's No. 1 contender in the super lightweight division. "I was really bummed."
During the bash, at his mother's Manhattan apartment, the birthday boy heard his name being shouted and gazed out the window. On the sidewalk, prancing and leaping as if trying to master flight, was a spit-curled figure in a Superman suit. "Who is that nut?" asked one of Junior's pals.
Junior smiled and said, "He's my pop."
Fourteen years later the cartoonish Macho Man and his trusty Machito form the flashiest one-two combination in boxing. At the precocious age of 21, Junior is ranked No. 5 or better at 135 and 140 pounds. Though Senior's fists are no longer faster than speeding bullets, he's still campaigning at 154 pounds. "I'm Superman," says the brazen 38-year-old, who has won world titles in every weight class from 130 to 160 pounds and has a career record of 73-4-2. "My son's Superboy."
Junior is as playful as his old man but a bit more understated. Junior is also undefeated—his record is 29-0 with 17 KOs. "My dad's a superstar," he says. "I'm a shooting star."
Senior's fame has been a roller coaster of excess—not the Warholian 15 minutes of it but a punishing 20 years. Since Hector Sr. turned pro in 1980, his life has been littered with fast cars, faster women and even faster arraignments. He was probably the first world champ to enter the ring in leotards, a dress or a Roman gladiator's costume, and he was surely the first, A.D., to box in a loincloth.
Hector Sr. grew up on welfare in Spanish Harlem. At 16 he met Maida Olivo, and a year later Hector Jr. arrived. "Dad wanted to make me tough," says Junior. "Once he shut me in a dark closet and told his friends, 'See, my boy doesn't cry.' "
Senior says he can't vouch for the story's accuracy. "It could be true, knowing my crazy self," he allows. "I had to learn to be a father."
Junior is hardly uncritical of his father. "It could be embarrassing to have the Macho Man as your pop," he says. Besides getting suspended from boxing in 1985 for failing a drug test, Senior was arrested for grand theft auto, for an altercation with a cop at a nightclub and for trying to sneak an M-16 rifle through customs in San Juan.
Machito doesn't party as hard as his dad, or punch as soft. "Junior is just as fast and has the same counter moves, cute turns and angles," says Joe Goossen, the renowned technical trainer young Camacho hired in May to shore up his inside game. "The kid uses his right hand much more effectively."