HARLEM — Hundreds of people gathered in East Harlem Friday to mourn slain boxing champion Hector "Macho" Camacho.
The line outside St. Cecila's Church, where the wake was held, stretched along East 106th Street, down Park Avenue and around the corner to East 105th Street as fans from all across the city turned out to pay their respects.
Many mourners waved flags from Camacho's native Puerto Rico, occasionally breaking into chants of "Macho, Macho" as the line crept forward. Across the street, others stood on crowded stoops, some wearing Camacho T-shirts and sweatshirts that hawkers were selling on the sidewalk.
"He was flamboyant. Charismatic. He gave our people hope and pride ever since he started in the Golden Gloves,” said William Burgos, 57, who came from The Bronx to pay his respects.
Camacho was shot Nov. 20 in his hometown of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He died four days later at a hospital in San Juan, and his body was flown back to New York where — he grew up and launched his boxing career — on Thursday after memorial services in Puerto Rico. He was 50 years old.
"I met him when I was 20. I'm from the same town in Puerto Rico," said Enrique Gonzalez, 47, as he stood in line outside the church.
A construction worker who now lives in The Bronx, Gonzalez said he was a fan of Camacho’s boxing as well as his reality TV show “Es Macho Time,” on the NuevOn YouTube channel. "Such a warm guy and a great sense of humor. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Many standing in the line had personal stories of Camacho from the neighborhood.
“When my son was 4, he carried him on his shoulder down the street,” said India Ali, 53, who grew up in Harlem.
Behind her in line, Illuminada Sheinberg, 60, said the boxer would joke with her at the neighborhood Duane Reade where she worked for 16 years. "He had a crush on me," she said, beaming. "He was so sweet and so nice. He would laugh all the time. I always thought he could never grow old. The light in his eyes would never go out. We were very angry about his death.”
Camacho began winning major boxing titles in the 1980s, taking home super featherweight, lightweight and junior welterweight belts after winning multiple New York Golden Gloves championships.
"I remember when we were young. We used to go into the hallways and shadow box. All below the neck,” said Victor Martorell, 46, who hung out with Camacho as teenagers in Harlem. Put off by the long lines into the church, Martorell called out to familiar faces to reminisce about the young boxer they’d grown up with.
Hector Camacho will be buried on Saturday at Saint Raymond’s Cemetary in the Bronx, according to The Daily News.