Name: Jose Torres
Hometown: Ponce, Puerto Rico
Birthplace: Playa, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Died: 2009-01-19 (Age:72)
Pro Boxer: Record
Amateur Boxer: Record
Manager: Cus D'Amato
Trainers: Cus D'Amato, Joey Fariello and Victor Valle
Jose "Chegui" Torres was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on May 3, 1936. He joined the U.S. Army when he was 17 years old — As Puerto Ricans have been United States citizens since 1917 — and started boxing to avoid KP duty. Torres represented the U.S. as a light middleweight at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and won a silver medal, losing to Laszlo Papp of Hungary in the final.
Following the Olympics, the renowned trainer Cus D'Amato moved Torres to New York, where he trained at the Empire Sporting Club. In 1958, Torres won the national AAU title at 165 pounds and the Intercity Golden Gloves title at 160 pounds. He earned money sparring with D'Amato's fighters, particularly World Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson, whose "peek-a-boo" style D'Amato taught. Short and somewhat stocky, Torres found it suited him.
Torres made his professional debut with a first-round knockout of George Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, on May 24, 1958. A popular fighter, he sold out New York's St. Nicholas Arena for his bout against Otis Woodard, which he won by a fifth-round TKO, on September 29, 1958. After winning his first 13 fights, he fought in Puerto Rico for the first as a professional when he faced future World Welterweight Champion Benny Paret in San Juan on September 26, 1959. Paret, who would die from injuries sustained in a 1962 title fight against Emile Griffith, fought Torres to a 10-round draw. Torres returned to Puerto in 1961 and fought in his hometown of Ponce, knocking out Gene Hamilton in four rounds on February 17.
Torres built his record to 26-0-1 before he was stopped in five rounds by Cuba's Florentino Fernandez in San Juan on May 25, 1963. It would be the only knockout loss of his career. He bounced back with seven consecutive wins and then fought former World Middleweight Champion Carl (Bobo) Olson in New York City on November 27, 1964. With the winner promised a title shot against World Light Heavyweight Champion Willie Pastrano, Torres knocked Olson out in the first round.
Before a crowd of 18,112 at Madison Square Garden, Torres, a 6 to 5 underdog, stopped Pastrano after nine rounds. He was the third Puerto Rican boxer to win a world title and the first Hispanic boxer to win the World Light Heavyweight Championship. Following the win, Torres declared, "I want Muhammad Ali."
A month after winning the championship, Torres, who had a good singing voice, appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and sang "Un Poco Mas." (He would later sing the U.S. national anthem for a lightweight title fight between Jimmy Paul and Irleis "Cubanito" Perez in 1986.)
On July 31, 1965, Torres fought former heavyweight title challenger Tom McNeeley in a 10-round non-title bout in San Juan. Competing as a heavyweight for the only time in his career, Torres was outweighed by 22 pounds (182 to 204). He floored McNeeley in the first round and went on to win by a unanimous decision. "The next day," Torres said, "I woke up with severe pain in the abdomen."
"Jose won the fight, but was in the hospital for two weeks afterward, with damage to the pancreas," said journalist Pete Hamill, a friend of Torres'. "That may have been the cause of the diabetes problems he had later in his life."
Torres returned to the ring in 1966 and made three successful title defenses: he defeated Wayne Thornton by a 15-round unanimous decision in Queens, New York, on May 21; he beat Eddie Cotton by a 15-round unanimous decision in Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 15 in The Ring Fight of the Year; and he knocked out Chic Calderwood in two rounds in San Juan on October 15.
In his fourth title defense, Torres lost the championship to former World Middleweight Champion Dick Tiger by a 15-round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden on December 16, 1966. They had a rematch at the Garden on May 16, 1968, and Tiger retained the title with a 15-round split decision victory. After the decision was announced, angry fans who disagreed with the verdict started throwing bottles and debris into the ring. City police and fireman were summoned to help the special police in the Garden. 11 people suffered injuries and were treated at nearby hospitals.
Torres' next bout was a sixth-round TKO of Australian Bob Dunlop on April 1, 1968, in Sydney, Australia. Torres didn't fight again until July 14, 1969, when he faced last-minute substitute Charley Green at Madison Square Garden. Torres, who was floored and almost knocked out at the end of the first round, put Green down for the count at 1:31 of the second. It was Torres' last fight.
Life After Boxing
After retiring in 1969, Torres worked for several years as an aide to Paul O'Dwyer, then president of the New York City Council. He later worked for Andrew Stein, borough president of Manhattan. Torres also was Puerto Rico's official New York City representative.
Torres also worked as a writer. With the help of Pete Hamill, he got a column in the New York Post. He wrote often on Hispanic community affairs.
"When he worked for the Post, he was the first Latino to write a column in an English-language paper," recalled Hamill. "He was an enormously powerful voice because of that, and there wasn't anybody of importance in New York who wouldn't talk to him."
In 1971, Torres authored a book about Muhammad Ali titled Sting Like a Bee: The Muhammad Ali Story. The preface was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Norman Mailer. The book became a bestseller. In his review of the book for the New York Times, Leonard Garnder wrote: "It is a rare inside look at the sport, and Torres has succeeded in getting beyond the external or the anecdotal. He has got down, in solid, disciplined prose, the mental processes of men engaged in split-second action. He examines the emotions, the extremes of tension, the interaction of styles and strategies. The book is not only an informed and intuitive profile of the most controversial and historically interesting fighter since the Jack Johnson controversy in the early days of this century; it is a study of the psychic contest that in boxing is the hidden part of the iceberg."
Torres served as chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission from 1984 to 1988. He was the first Hispanic to hold the job. Torres resigned to resume his writing career. "I was a professional writer before I became chairman," he said, "and I want to be a writer again."
In 1989, Torres' book about Mike Tyson, Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson, was published. It was another bestseller for Torres. Tyson, like Torres, was managed and trained by Cus D'Amato. "I've known Mike since he was 12 years old," Torres said, "and I've seen him grow as a person and a fighter." The book contained sensational revelations of sex and violence. USA Today called the book "Stunning!"
From 1990 to 1995, Torres served as a supervisor and then president of the World Boxing Organization.
In the 2000s, he continued to cover the sport of boxing and worked as an analyst for ESPN Deportes.
Beset by health issues, Torres decided to return to Puerto Rico in 2007, though he still occasionally returned to New York, as he did in May 2007 when his nephew, Joel Torres, fought at Gotham Hall.
Torres was home in Ponce when he died of a heart attack in the early hours of January 19, 2009.
The mayor of Ponce declared three days of mourning and ordered flags be flown at half-staff. The flags at the International Boxing Hall of Fame were also flown at half-staff.
"Puerto Rico has lost a great Puerto Rican, a very valiant person who aside from being a great athlete, was a great human being," David Bernier, president of the U.S. territory's Olympic committee, told radio station WKAQ.
Torres was a Puerto Rican national hero, but Pete Hamill pointed out: "He also spent 50 years of his life here, so he was a New Yorker all right."
New York Governor David Paterson said in a statement: "Through his boxing, writing and speaking out on the important issues of our time, Jose was an inspiration to millions of people across the country and around the world."
Torres was survived by his wife of 47 years, Ramona, and four children.
- Silver Medalist (156 pounds) at the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
- Won the New York Daily News Golden Gloves Championship (160 pounds) vs. William Pickett.
- Won the New York Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions (160 pounds) vs. Mel Fulgham.
- Won the Intercity Golden Gloves Championship (160 pounds) vs. Wilbert McClure.
- Won the National AAU Championship (165 pounds) vs. Norman Smith.
| New York Daily News Golden Gloves
Open Middleweight Champion
| New York Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions
| Intercity Golden Gloves
| National AAU Middleweight Champion
| WBA Light Heavyweight Champion
WBC Light Heavyweight Champion
1965 Mar 30 – 1966 Dec 16
- "José Torres, 72, Boxing Hall of Famer and Official, Dies" By Richard Goldstein, New York Times, January 19, 2009
- "Jose Torres dies at 72; former light heavyweight world champion" Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2009
- "Torres' legacy extends beyond the ropes" By George Kimball, ESPN.com, January 20, 2009
- "Obituary: José Torres" By Michael Carlson, the Guardian, January 25, 2009
- IMDb page
- Wikipedia Biography