Duston Barto :
On August 16th, 2014 Charlotte hosted its first major boxing event in over a decade. The blessing for the Muslim community is that the primary promoter for the fights, Brother Jonathan Nazeer, and the headliner for the event, Hector “Macho” Camacho, Jr are both Muslim. There have been many Muslim boxers over the years such as the great well-known Muhammad Ali, Henry Tillman who won the gold in 1984 Olympics, light heavyweight world champion Bernard Hopkins and even the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of 1987 Mike Tyson converted to Islam in the 1990s while in prison. One of the burning questions that many people have is “How can people in an aggressive sport like boxing embrace the peace of Islam?” I can tell you that after having met Brother Hector; there is no aggression in his manner. His view of the sport may be unique, but it definitely shows how Muslims can happily participate in it.
Thanks to Brother Jonathan Nazeer, I was able to catch a few minutes with Hector Camacho, Jr after the official weigh-in the night before his big fight. I observed Hector in dealing with other interviewers and in posing with his opponent for promo shots and he looked every bit the typical boxer; squared off shoulders, aggressive stance, fierce eyes and a fist that looked eager to deliver a knockout blow. Then when I greeted him with “Salaam Alaikum, I’m from Carolina Muslims magazine.” His demeanor changed, his face lightened and he melted into the sort of person you’d expect to see smiling and giving salaams, eager to shake everyone’s hand leaving the masjid after Jummuah.
Of course, the first thing I wanted to ask him was about how he found his way to Islam, Hector revealed that although he’d been raised Catholic and was a baptized Christian, he hit a point in his life where everything was going bad for him. Then, while in Panama, “I asked God, Allah, ‘Bring me closer to you, Father. I am missing something so bring me closer to You.’ So I went for a walk in Panama after I was having a discussion, an argument, with my wife. While I was outwalking I came to a Masjid and I heard some music, so I went inside and I asked the person ‘What song is that?’ so he said ‘That’s not a song,we were actually praying’… So I sit there watching it and hearing it and ever since then Allah took meto the light. Alhamdullilah, man, I’m at peace. I’m a better person and I see life differently. I’m in the light.”
Knowing that he sees himself in a different way and life in a different way, I was curious about the subject mentioned above: How can a Muslim balance the peace of Islam with the aggressiveness of Islam? Very plainly, Hector Camacho, Jr stated, “It is my job. Allah said that us as Muslims we should have jobs. After the fight is finished, I may give my opponent a hug and a kiss, say ‘God bless you’ or ‘Assalam alaikum’. That’s what it is, its entertainment. I like to entertain but I don’t like going in there with the idea to strike and killing him. I like to go there and the work in; just do my job, then come home. Entertain and have fun. You know I use the light and the time that Allah has given me to be in the ring to let people know how great God is. I let people know Lailaha illalaah, there is only One God and that’s my message. God gave me this position to be in the light so why not use it for Him? That’s howI look at it.”
Satisfying that curiosity, I moved on to asking him about the advice that he would give youth that look at him as both a boxer and as a Muslim. “Stay in the light (of Islam).” Hector punctuated strongly, “You know we’re going through tough times. A lot of the devils & shaytan got the outside covered now with the TV, the music. So stay in the light, stay true to yourself and stay looking for God.” He elaborated, “You have to struggle and it’s not easy. Put God first, put Allah first. Anything can be accomplished. If you want to be a boxer and that’s what you wanna do, then stay in the light and God will make it easy for you.”Lastly I asked Hector Camacho, Jr if he found it hard being in a sport that is traditionally sponsored by alcohol companies and other haram sources. I asked him how hard it was to find clean venues to fight in. He responded, “You know, recently I’ve been offered sponsorships from companies that are haram and I say no. The money may sound good but it’s against Allah’s words so I keep away from them. And that’s what I believe in. Unfortunately it’s like that but hey if you know what’s in your heart then you live by it and go by God’s way, it shouldn’t bother nobody.”
Salient advice and strong words from someone who has to walk that line constantly. We talked briefly about our love for Qur’an and he said that since Al-Fatihah brought him to Islam it has a special place in his heart, Hector referred to it as both “The Beginning” and “The Core”.
The next night Hector Camacho, Jr. fought Miguel Munguia and won by TKO after knocking Mungia down four times in the second round. It was reported by many sports outlets to be a very intense, busy fight. After the fight, Hector Camacho, Jr kept to his word and hugged his opponent, extending sincere blessings to him.