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Macho Camacho Is Too Mucho for Boom Boom

Times Staff Writer

Except for the fun of booing villains and cheering All-American boys, there would seem to be little call for a rematch of Monday night’s fight between Hector (Macho) Camacho and Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini. Certainly fights such as these have a cathartic value for the sports fan. But don’t we already have big-time wrestling?

Still, they were talking rematch after Camacho eked out a split decision over his hated rival, the milk-drinking Mancini, and with more wrestling than big-time presents at that.

It’s true that the fight was hardly conclusive. But the hope of a clear-cut decision is no reason to go through 12 rounds of circling and clinching. Perhaps, the fight fan’s only hope, a rematch will take as long to make as the original--five years.

This fight was lost in the anticipation. Camacho and Mancini had a nice little rivalry going, Camacho flouting his outrageous life style and Mancini protesting on behalf of all that is good and true in America.

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But it all went up in smoke when Mancini actually came out of a four-year retirement to take on this “mosquito.”

All that you can draw from the fight is from the example of Mancini, looking on his last legs even back in 1985 when Livingstone Bramble drummed him out of boxing, valiantly forging into the fray. Even Camacho, who has had little good to say of Mancini, tipped his hat to Mancini’s courageousness. Nobody thought Mancini would last Camacho’s slick sharpshooting; he was a prohibitive underdog in this match for an obscure 140-pound title.

But the way former two-time world champion Camacho fought (he now has the World Boxing Organization junior welterweight title as well), probably anybody could have survived. You know that there wasn’t much action when we report that Mancini did not bleed, not ever, in the 12 rounds at the packed Lawlor Events Center. Mancini bleeds at weigh-ins.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Mancini said.

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It was nearly hideous. There was not a sharp blow all evening. Camacho threw some stinging jabs and Mancini delivered a number of body blows. But nothing happened that would cause anybody to call for a ban on boxing.

Camacho, who himself had only fought three times in the last two years after letting his career stagnate, played matador to Mancini’s bull. He defended his tactics as correct, the only way to win.

“It was a make-or-break action fight,” he said, with handlers hollering Macho Time all around him. “With his pressure, to keep it lopsided, I had to fight like that.”

It wasn’t lopsided, though. Judges Chuck Giampa and Doug Tucker scored it 115-113 for Camacho and Keith Macdonald scored it 116-112 for Mancini. The Times scored it 115-113 for Camacho. And Mancini scored it for himself all the way.

“No doubt in my mind I won the fight,” said Mancini, who was once the lightweight champion but before Camacho assumed the mantle. “It wasn’t pretty by any means, but I did keep throwing punches. I thought, in boxing, body shots count as much as jabs.” They were less disfiguring, though. Camacho was unmarked, Mancini puffy about the eyes.

The fun of the fight was all beforehand when the match loomed as a kind of morality play. Both fighters played into the promotion. Mancini, the family man out of Youngstown, Ohio, talked about developing a worthy role model for kids (not this Macho kid) and just generally preserving civilization. He even brought a priest in from his hometown, in case anybody had doubts about his roots.

Camacho, meanwhile, roamed the casinos and behaved pretty much in character. Mothers kept their daughters indoors and Camacho reveled. At the 2:30 a.m. weigh-in (that’s another story), Camacho entertained by baiting Mancini with “Happy Birthday, dear Sissy,” and calling him “Ray-Ski.”

Fight night, neither disappointed. Camacho, who thinks the ring is a fashion runway, entered with a gold sequined outfit and gold shoes. When the crowd realized he was wearing a bull fighter’s cap they split: half booed, half dissolved in derisive laughter.

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Mostly they booed. Camacho had made a last-minute insistence on the Puerto Rican anthem--or he wouldn’t fight--and that rendition was booed lustily. Mancini, meanwhile, was greeted with a cascade of cheers. And never was the national anthem received so appreciatively. You couldn’t even hear it for the cheering.

The crowd cheered every apparent Mancini flurry and booed every Camacho clinch. There were a bunch of each. But there was more audience participation than fighters’ in the end.

Afterward, while the fighters didn’t have a genuine clinch of brotherly love, the only clinch they missed, Camacho, 26, suggested all was forgiven. “Hey,” he said, “I get under anybody’s skin.”

He was magnanimous to allow that Mancini, 28, “fought better than anybody thought, period. I was in condition and he was too and he was talking no baloney when he said he’d knock my head off.”

Mancini (29-4) was ambivalent about a full-blown return to boxing. There was talk of rematch and Mancini said, if he decided to stay in boxing, sure. But he had said all along he was only in this for Camacho. Camacho (35-0) wants to fight Harry Arroyo and work his way up to Julio Cesar Chavez, the lower weights money fighter. But he was only a shadow of himself, too, just like Mancini. Perhaps, to that extent, a rematch is sensible; they deserve each other.

The undercard was supposed to feature heavyweight George Foreman in another of his comeback stops, but Foreman, ever the model of caution, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission couldn’t agree on an opponent. The commission likes them to be livelier than Foreman does.

Instead, the preliminaries were notable by the professional coming out of Olympic silver medalist Riddick Bowe. Bowe, with veteran trainer Eddie Futch in his corner, got off to a good enough start by flooring a late-replacement opponent, one Lionel Butler (1-2), three times. An uppercut right on the nose ended it at 1:55 in the second round.

Bowe was a bit wild, no jab to speak of, but clearly in control throughout. Immediately afterward, Bowe, who does a number of impressions, impersonated former president Ronald Reagan. It will take a few more fights, of course, before he can do a heavyweight contender. But he’s just 21.

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