Former light heavyweight champion Jose Torres passes away

By
TysonTalk

Published: January 20, 2009

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Former light heavyweight world champion and Olympic silver medalist Jose Torres (who, just as Mike Tyson, fought under the management of Cus D’Amato) has passed away Monday at age of 72.

He died of a heart attack at his home in Ponce, his wife, Ramonita Ortiz, told The Associated Press.

Trained and managed by the legendary Cus D’Amato,, Torres won the light heavyweight title in 1965 by stopping Willie Pastrano at Madison Square Garden in New York. He made three title defenses before losing a close decision to Dick Tiger in 1966. He finished with a record of 41-3-1, with 29 knockouts.

The mayor of Ponce, on the island’s southern coast, declared three days of mourning and ordered flags be 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 began fighting when he joined the U.S. Army as a teenager. He won a silver medal as a light middleweight at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics while competing for the United States. He lost the title bout to Hungary’s Laszlo Papp.

D’Amato had his keen eye on Torres after seeing him win a silver medal in the 1956 Olympics. He immediately took him on and said, “This kid will be a champion, and it won’t take that long.”

The first thing D’Amato did was put Torres in the same peekaboo style he started all his fighters on. To some, this was an awkward way to fight, but Cus defended it by saying that it worked fine for Patterson, who had gained the heavyweight championship that way. Well, it also worked for Torres.

 

After retiring in 1969, he became a representative of New York’s Puerto Rican community, chaired the New York State Athletic Commission in the 1980s and served as supervisor for the World Boxing Organization. He also wrote two biographies – “Sting Like a Bee” on Muhammad Ali and “Fire and Fear” on Mike Tyson.

“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,” New York Gov. David Paterson said in a prepared statement, noting Torres trained in New York City and was a New York Golden Gloves Champion in the 1950s.

As the first Puerto Rican to serve as commissioner of the state Athletic Commission, Paterson said Torres “was instrumental in strengthening boxing in New York.”

Torres was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.

Jose Torres was one of boxings finest ambassadors,? said Hall of Fame Executive Director Edward Brophy. He was an Olympian, a world champion, author, commissioner and a true gentleman. The Hall of Fame joins the boxing community in mourning his passing.?

Torres will be buried Thursday in Ponce.

 

TysonTalk sends condolenses to the friends and family of Jose Torres.

Click here for a picture tribute to Jose Torres.

Jose Torres is flanked by fellow American medalists at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne: Peter Rademacher (left), winner of the gold medal in heavyweight, and James Boyd, bronze medal winner in light heavyweight. (ap/file 1956)

world light heavyweight champ Jose Torres, right, lands a right to the face of Wayne Thornton in the fourth round of their title fight at New York’s Shea Stadium in 1966. Torres retained his crown by a unanimous decision.

 

Jose Torres gets over hard right to head of Gomeo Brennan at Miami Beach in 1964.

 

 

 

Jose Torres and Muhammad Ali at the 1997 International Boxing Hall of Fame induction.

 


A fine fighter and fellow, Jose Torres won a title and lots of friends

BY BILL GALLO

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

 

Monday in Ponce, Puerto Rico, boxing lost a champion and one of its fine ambassadors. And I lost a friend.

Jose Torres, better known by his friends as “Chegui,” died of a heart attack. He was 72. The generous and fighting heart of this popular man gave out at his home with his wife of 48 years, Ramonita, by his side.

 

Chegui was a good and solid boxer/puncher who had a total of 45 bouts, winning 41 of them, 12 by decision and 29 by knockout. Trained and managed by the savvy Cus D’Amato, Jose went on to win the light-heavyweight championship in 1965 when he stopped Willie Pastrano in nine rounds at Madison Square Garden.

 

D’Amato knew his onions about the talents of fighters, not only guiding Torres to a crown but Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson as well.

D’Amato had his keen eye on Torres after seeing him win a silver medal in the 1956 Olympics. He immediately took him on and said, “This kid will be a champion, and it won’t take that long.”

 

The first thing D’Amato did was put Torres in the same peekaboo style he started all his fighters on. To some, this was an awkward way to fight, but Cus defended it by saying that it worked fine for Patterson, who had gained the heavyweight championship that way. Well, it also worked for Torres.

 

So, from the start in 1958 when he became a pro, Torres peekaboo’d his way through 28 fights, winning 27 of them with one draw.

 

Torres then ran into the hard-hitting Florentino Fernandez, who in 1963 knocked him out in five. It was the only time Torres was KO’d.

 

Not discouraged by the setback, Chegui bounced back, winning a decision against Don Fullmer a few fights before he knocked out Carl (Bobo) Olson in the first round.

Before Torres even thought of hanging them up, he wanted one big money score, so he challenged, of all people, Muhammad Ali.

 

It was at a boxing luncheon when we all were interviewing Ali that 5-10 Jose Torres went up to 6-3 Muhammad Ali and said, “C’mon man, you and me, I need a good payday. We’ll pack them in.”

 

Ali didn’t answer but he turned to Jose’s wife and said, “Okay, but you have to feed him a lot of rice and beans. Only then can I make money for your man.”

 

Torres never did fight Ali. But he was a smart man who could write as well as most sports writers of his day. Pete Hamill, the splendid newspaper guy and fine author, guided him with pointers on style and said this about his good friend: “It didn’t take long before Chegui could write, and write very well.”

 

Torres said that his biggest obstacle was learning to think in English. But the author Bert Sugar, who co-authored the Ali book “Sting Like A Bee” with him, said, “He was a damn good writer in two languages.”

The champ enjoyed the literary crowd and became good friends not only with Pete and Denis Hamill but with Norman Mailer and Budd Schulberg. He also befriended Robert Kennedy.

 

He was smart, this friend of the boxing and newspaper world, and there was nobody I would rather talk boxing with than Jose. He spoke eloquently about this hard and sometimes brutal sport as if he were describing a painting of great merit. “Boxing indeed can be an art,” he’d say.

I remember how I learned that Torres was one of the smarter fighters of his day. Unlike a lot of others, he knew when to quit and it had much to do with a journeyman fighter named Charley (Devil) Green. Here’s the story:

 

It was in 1969 and Torres was weighing in for a fight with Jimmy Ralston, an upstate light-heavy. The fight was at the Garden and Jose was hoping for one more shot at the title he had lost to Dick Tiger.

 

Then a dilemma – Ralston cops out of the fight and leaves matchmaker Teddy Brenner hanging. Teddy, in a panic, goes for a walk around the Garden. There on the street he spots Devil Green, a former sparring partner for Torres.

 

“I’ll give you $3,500 to fight Torres tonight,” says Brenner.

 

“Sure,” says Green. “It’s more than I could make shooting craps.”

The bell rings and Jose, expecting an easy night, gets clocked on the chin and if it weren’t for the bell to save him, he would have been knocked out. Torres comes out in the second round and knocks out Green.

 

In the dressing room, Torres tells us that he has just hung up his gloves forever. His parting words to boxing were: “When my sparring partner comes close to knocking me out, it’s time to quit.”

 

This was Jose Torres – a good fellow, good fighter, popular man who commanded the attention of fighters and writers alike, a damn smart guy who knew both games and was a plus in our world.

 

S’long, my friend. You did splendidly.