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Hard Times: The Resurrection of Angel Camacho Jr. (With Postcript)

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  • Hard Times: The Resurrection of Angel Camacho Jr. (With Postcript)

    Click image for larger version  Name:	1Screen Shot 2019-03-18 at 9.18.12 AM.png Views:	1 Size:	845.1 KB ID:	12577

    By Jeffrey Freeman

    A junior is following in his father’s fighting footsteps and he’s taking strides beyond those made by Angel Camacho Sr., a tenacious power punching former Golden Glover from Puerto Rico. And although he’s not related in any form or fashion to the late Hall of Famer Hector “Macho” Camacho, you probably should have heard about the 35-year-old Angel Camacho Jr. by now.

    The Providence, Rhode Island born light heavyweight (16-0, with 5 KOs) is currently on the third of three comeback trails from three lengthy periods of career inactivity totaling over nine years.

    He knows it’s now or never.

    “I still have to grind,” he says.

    If things had gone according to plan, Camacho Jr. may have by now added a victory over Peter Manfredo Jr. to his resume. Instead, the talented boxer lost his biggest opportunity to a foot injury suffered while running on an outdoor trail just two weeks before the biggest fight of his life.

    “I don’t run on trails anymore.”

    Making his pro debut in 2006 at age 23 after a brief 1996 stint in the amateurs where he competed in only fifteen bouts, Camacho racked up eleven wins in two years on the New England circuit before a domestic assault situation landed him in jail; derailing his true passion.

    He ultimately served nine months.

    When Camacho came back in 2011, he was matched against local gatekeeper Keith Kozlin on a Big Six Entertainment card in West Warwick. It was obvious to everyone who saw him that the quick-fisted Camacho could still move his hands. Using his height and reach advantages, the six foot tall Puerto Rican American busted up Kozlin’s right eye and scored a unanimous four round decision while wearing an RI-DOC issued ankle bracelet as a condition of his parole.


    Rather than building on the momentum of victory, what followed was three more years of inactivity. "It was just life’s hurdles. Life's complications,” explains Camacho. "I had a divorce. I was dealing with my significant other wanting me to spend more time at home. I've gone through a lot—drug issues, self-medicating because of depression, to now being clean and focused.”

    Currently estranged from his second wife, Camacho freely admits that women are his downfall. “I’m addicted to them,” he tells me with a grin. “But in jail I turned a negative into a positive. I got my GED while I was in there. I stayed in great shape. I worked with a big guy named ‘Moose’ who’d wrap his mattress around his body and let me punch with towels wrapped on my hands.”

    When he came back again in 2014, Camacho, signed and promoted by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports, faced another stiff test in Paul Gonsalves. Camacho notched a unanimous six round decision win at CES’s homebase of Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.

    Things were looking up in 2015 for the local standout and he was starting to show up on my radar as a New England fight writer. Five months after the Gonsalves win, Camacho was back in a CES ring, stepping up against tough super-middleweight southpaw trial horse Chris Chatman. Camacho scored another unanimous six round win but it was quite a struggle.

    Originally scheduled to fight Kevin Cobbs at 178, Camacho had two weeks to get down 168. “I was dead in that fight, drained. My legs were like noodles. I had nothing in me but pure heart.”

    Five months later in September at Twin River, Camacho faced his sternest test yet, a ten round scheduled matchup against Rich Gingras for a vacant UBF 175 pound title belt. In a high contact local throwdown, Camacho stopped Gingras in the eighth round to grab the biggest victory of his on-again, off-again career. The fight was an absolute war of attrition won big by Camacho after uncorking a highlight reel worthy nine-punch combination to end it. The brutal loss effectively ended the boxing career of Gingras who came back unsuccessfully three years later in 2018.

    Using social media, Camacho reached out to me after the Gingras TKO wondering why I hadn’t yet written a story about him. He encouraged me to do so and I set out to pay extra close attention to his development. I could see he was clearly a cut above the locals he was being matched with and that good things were in his future. Instead, Camacho dropped off a cliff.

    He didn’t stop training but Camacho did stop fighting. It’s a shame too because even though the title belt he won in the Gingras fight is a minor one, Camacho was enthusiastic and excited about defending it. In May of 2016, he was scheduled to put it up for grabs in an all-Providence vs. Providence battle with former Contender star Peter Manfredo Jr. in a huge CES main event.

    This high profile encounter with Manfredo was supposed to be the fight that propelled Camacho beyond New England, to the next level, to the bigger and better things that boxing offers winners.

    It wasn’t meant to be.

    Camacho pulled out with a foot injury. Manfredo fought replacement opponent Vladine Biosse instead. The ‘Pride of Providence’ was held to an eight round split draw and has not fought again since. From ringside, Camacho could see the decline of the ring rusted Manfredo as clearly as anyone else around him. Had they fought as scheduled, it’s likely that the slick and aggressive Camacho would have upset Manfredo, kept his title and maybe even earned another one as the new Pride of Providence.

    “I should’ve fought him with the bad foot,” says Camacho, only half-joking. “I know I would have beaten him. I was doing everything right in training,” he laments. Pridefully, Camacho still holds out hope that Manfredo might attempt another money making comeback and that a Manfredo-Camacho bout could still become a reality. “I would love for that to happen. I’m pretty sure if they offer him what they offered him before, he’d come back for it. I can still beat him.”

    Slated to return just a few months later on July 15, 2016 in defense of his beloved UBF title against “Vermont Bully” Kevin Cobbs, Camacho saw another CES main event opportunity slip through his fingers when a devastating shoulder injury occurred in training. Camacho was in the gym throwing his right hand at the heavy bag when he felt a terrible shoulder pain. He’d injured his rotator cuff and he now needed surgery to repair it. The recovery was long and grueling.

    It looked like Camacho was no mas.

    “I was in a sling for forever. I was done,” he recalls. “But I finished most of my physical therapy knowing that I needed to get back into boxing. Today my shoulder feels better than it ever has.”

    Frustrated with boxing’s ups and downs, Camacho started working manual labor jobs to support his family. Days turned into weeks and into months and then into years. I never got to write that story about the up-and-coming Angel Camacho Jr. because there was no longer one to tell.


    It’s three years later.

    Camacho (who insists he’s really a hungry super middleweight) got himself back into the ring and had his hand raised for the sixteenth time as a professional on March 15, 2019. He describes himself as still being in his “peak” physical prime. “I’m probably in the best shape of my life,” he says after officially weighing-in at 171 lbs. He doesn’t want to live with the regret of never knowing what he could have accomplished in the sport he loves and thinks of like chess.

    Last Friday night in Massachusetts, the comebacking Camacho appeared on the undercard of rookie promoter Chuck Shearn’s debut Worcester Palladium fight card entitled Every Man For Himself—a local club show full of pawns making their opening moves in the boxing game.

    Camacho had to work to defeat his 40 year-old opponent Larry Smith, a 10-40-1 Texas fall guy who always shows up and tries to win even if he rarely does. Camacho showed no sign of his two previous injuries (he led with his left foot and threw strong right hands at Smith) but he complained of a new issue after the fight in the dressing room, revealing an unknown chest injury suffered in sparring with previous opponent and now good friend Keith Kozlin.

    “It hurts when I take a deep breath.”

    Camacho did show some signs of ring rust after his long layoff but he stayed busy to the body and was rewarded with a clear unanimous decision. There was also an angry little nick under his right eye from being thumbed by Smith. The judge’s scores were 60-54 and 59-55 twice.

    “This is the first step in my comeback,” says Camacho. Speaking of which, he almost tripped on the metal ring steps on his way into the ring and in the third, with Smith leaning on him, he nearly fell out of the ring and onto the photographers on the ring apron. Trying to hurt him but not get him hurt, Smith held onto Camacho and prevented him from falling clear out the ring.

    “I love him,” the respectful Smith said of the winner. “It could have been a win for me to let him go but to see him fall out the ring, come on, he got kids. Just look at Prichard Colon right now, perfect example. He can’t box. Can he talk? He can’t talk. He can’t walk. He in a wheelchair.”

    “I love you Larry,” Angel said before the men parted ways.


    Humble so as not to be humbled, Camacho puts his resurrection as a man and as a fighter in His hands. “God gave me the talent to do this,” he says. “I’ve been boxing since I was 12 years-old after being terrorized and bullied as a little kid by a much bigger kid who really tortured me.”

    Nick Tucci, a guardian angel the same age as Angel’s tormentor, stopped the bullying from “Bubba” and in 1995 introduced Camacho to trainer Artie Artwell at the Phantom Boxing Club on Branch Avenue in Providence. “I learned how to fight and I won the silver gloves in 1996.”

    “That was the beginning of my boxing career,” Camacho recalls. “I owe it to Nick and to my grandfather who’d bring me to the gym. It’s time to get back in there and see what happens.”

    According to his management team, Camacho is now looking at a return to Twin River casino on April 26 and then a possible June appearance against local upstart Richie “Popeye The Sailor Man” Rivera, an undefeated 10-0 (9) light heavyweight puncher from Hartford, Connecticut.

    "I wasn't meant to just stop fighting,” insists Camacho. “There's more to do. I want to spread the word of God and help young people. I want to use boxing as a platform to reach out to kids in need. That’s why we set up the Angel Wings Foundation to raise money for those kids in the inner city. If I can help one so-called misfit kid by sharing my story, it makes it all worthwhile.”

    Amen to that Angel.


    Post Script: The next time I saw Angel Camacho, it was Saturday April 6, three weeks after the comeback win in Worcester. He was in West Warwick, Rhode Island kneeling over the open casket of his former opponent and good friend Keith Kozlin, a former prizefighter, movie actor and all-around good guy. Camacho was as distraught as any one of the hundreds of people who came to show their final respects to Kozlin, a husband and father of three girls including twins.

    “I can’t believe it.”

    The 37 year-old Kozlin, 7-3-1 (4) as a pro, passed away at home suddenly on April 1 just two weeks after I talked to him for this story. He spoke highly of Camacho and looked forward to sparring with him in the gym soon. “After Angel’s fight against Larry we’ll work with each other again.” He had a final message for Camacho. I’ve delivered it to him personally. “Go to work!”

    Rest in Peace Keith Kozlin.

    Go to work Angel Camacho.

    Boxing writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. He then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

    Photo credit: Emily Harney

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Boxing is hella grimy but I love it.


    • #3
      Well done and a very enjoyable read. "...women are his downfall. “I’m addicted to them,” Poor lad
      Last edited by Kid Blast; 03-18-2019, 01:10 PM.


      • #4
        After his successful comeback fight, I find Angel Camacho up in the well trafficked dressing room of the Worcester Palladium, he is happy to have won the match but he is distraught that his night has been "ruined" by another misunderstanding with his wife who he's apparently just gotten off the phone with. Evidently she was upset about Angel posing in victory with a leggy ring girl, or some such thing that left Mrs. Camacho feeling something less than special and Mr. Camacho feeling something other than satisfied. Women weaken legs? Yes, in all kinds of interesting ways!
        Last edited by KO Digest; 03-19-2019, 04:53 AM.


        • Kid Blast
          Kid Blast commented
          Editing a comment

      • #5
        Good stuff KO. Very interesting read on Camacho. I have not seen Camacho fight to be honest but have seen Richard Rivera. Sounds like that could at least be an interesting fight at least in the New England area. Do you think Camacho has enough in the tank to be competitive?


        • #6
          "Popeye" is a raw dog in there and he leaves himself open trying to take his opponent's head off but he's young, strong, and full of self-confidence. Camacho is a good little boxer who doesn't mind sitting down on his punches if he has to. I hope they can make the fight happen this summer. I'd have to favor Rivera but if Camacho comes in right and ready, it's anybody's fight.


          • #7
            Originally posted by KO Digest View Post
            "Popeye" is a raw dog in there and he leaves himself open trying to take his opponent's head off but he's young, strong, and full of self-confidence. Camacho is a good little boxer who doesn't mind sitting down on his punches if he has to. I hope they can make the fight happen this summer. I'd have to favor Rivera but if Camacho comes in right and ready, it's anybody's fight.
            I agree, Rivera is very limited. I always thought he'd lose the first time he remotely stepped up in class. He's a fun guy to watch but just makes so many technical mistakes and hard to envision him getting anywhere near the next level. This though could be an interesting fight.


            • #8
              R.I.P. Condolences to his loved ones.


              • #9
                The wake yesterday was incredibly moving. So many people were there in a huge line. Keith's old CES promoter Mister B was there, new pro James Perella (a 6 foot three welterweight favorite of Koz) showed his respects. The Manfredos senior and junior. Shelito Vincent. And of course, Angel Camacho. RIP KOZ 🙏