With the help of a trainer named Bobby Lee, Camacho won New York Golden Gloves titles three years in a row. He had already won his first when he found himself in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. Other inmates on the island came up to him and said, "Hey, man, what are you doing in here?"
"He had a lot of fights in there," Flannery says. "He learned that a fighter can't afford to be intimidated."
Flannery is also responsible for the Macho in Camacho. "His friends were going to call him 'Payaso,' " Flannery says, "which means 'clown' in Spanish. I named him Macho. The rhyme is something everybody won't forget. He used it in his first professional fight, against David Brown at the Felt Forum. He was introduced as Macho Camacho and the audience went wild. It's a name that suits him perfectly."
Camacho was officially enrolled at Manhattan High until 1982, when he decided to devote all his time to training. "We knew he wasn't going to be no doctor or lawyer," says Giles. "He dropped out in the 11th grade, but he will get his diploma. We'll hire tutors for him."
Camacho still goes back to Manhattan High to visit. "When I go to schools at first the kids say, 'Oh, he was arrested, a juvenile delinquent,' " he says. "But then they see I'm not a bum. They respect me. I was in trouble when I was a youth. Now even the senior citizens look up to me. I'm an example of how people can live their dreams."
"Pah! Pah! Pah!" Giles says, dancing behind Camacho, who is ransacking a heavy bag. Traveling an unchoreographable route of pretty footwork, Camacho appears to be suspended in midair like the bag, hanging in the fury of his own punches. "Keep you moving, keep you moving," Giles says, bending over. "Throw it again! Throw it! O.K., now, drop your right hand. Work, work, work!" Camacho's head is down, intent. His top lip is pulled back as he snarls. "Gonna break your back, man," he says. "Pam?!" He lands a right hook that would break the back of an elephant.
"In boxing they used to say you should drown all southpaws at birth," says Marvin Davis, a trainer at Connies Gym in Harlem where Camacho is working out. "But if you're a southpaw, don't change. Be what God meant you to be.
"He's a stick-and-move man. I can never see his hands. They're too fast, like a blur. Ooh!" he winces. "Hear that?" Camacho has just landed a right hook, his strongest punch, on the bag.
"Looks like an altar boy, don't he?" says Davis, chuckling. "Deceiving."
Camacho suddenly breaks his concentration, struts around and says, "I feel like a nut hitting this thing. Give me someone real."