Puerto Rico – Rich in Culture, Rich in History

Jose “Chequi” Torres

Jose "Chequi" TorresJose  Tor­res (May 3, 1936 ( Jan­u­ary 19, 2009),  known as “Chegui”,  was a Puerto Rican pro­fes­sional boxer.   As an ama­teur boxer, Tor­res won a sil­ver medal in the junior mid­dleweight at the 1956 Olympic games in Mel­bourne. In 1965, he defeated Willie Pas­trano to win the WBC and WBA Light heavy­weight cham­pi­onships. In 1997, he was inducted into the Inter­na­tional Box­ing Hall of Fame.

Ama­teur career

Born in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Tor­res began fight­ing when he joined the U.S. Army as a teenager (he was 18 years old). His only ama­teur titles had come in Army and Inter-Service cham­pi­onships,  sev­eral of which he had won.   Tor­res was still in the Army when he won the Sil­ver Medal in the light mid­dleweight divi­sion at the 1956 Mel­bourne Olympic Games,  where he lost to Las­zlo Papp of Hun­gry in the final.

Tor­res trained at the Empire Sport­ing Club in New York City.   He was the 1958 National AAU Mid­dleweight Cham­pion and also won the 1958 New York Golden Gloves 160lb Open Championship.

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

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

Pro­fes­sional career

He debuted as a pro­fes­sional in 1958 with a first round knock­out of George Hamil­ton in New York. Twelve wins in a row fol­lowed,  ten of them by knock­out (includ­ing wins over con­tenders Ike Jenk­ins and Al Andrews),  after which he was able to make his San Juan debut against Benny Paret, a world wel­ter­weight and Mid­dleweight cham­pion whose death after a fight would later on become one of the turn­ing points in the his­tory of box­ing. Tor­res and Paret fought to a ten round draw, and in 1960,Torres went back to cam­paign­ing in New York, where he scored three wins that year, all by deci­sion, includ­ing two over Randy Sandy.

In 1961, Tor­res made his home­town debut with a four round knock­out win in a rematch with Hamil­ton at Ponce.   He made six more fights that year,  win­ning all of them by knockout.

1962 came by and Tor­res kept his knock­out streak alive with three more knock­out wins,  but in 1963,  he suf­fered his first loss,  being stopped in five by Cuba  Flo­rentino Fer­nan­dez,  the only boxer ever to beat Tor­res by a knock­out as a pro­fes­sional.   After that set­back, Tor­res went back to train­ing and had one more fight that year, and that time around, he was able to beat another top con­tender in Don Fullmer, Gene Fullmer’s brother, with a ten round deci­sion win in New Jersey.

In 1964, Tor­res beat a group of box­ers, includ­ing Jose Gon­za­lez, Walker sim­mons (twice), Frankie Oliv­era, Gomeo Bren­nan and for­mer world Mid­dleweight cham­pion Carl Olson (Bobo), taken out in one round.   After this, Tor­res was ranked num­ber 1 among Light Heavy­weight chal­lengers, and his title shot would arrive soon.

In 1965, it finally did. Met at Madi­son Square Gar­den with fel­low Inter­na­tional Box­ing Hall of Fame mem­ber and then world Light Heavy­weight cham­pion Willie Pas­trano, Tor­res became the third Puerto Rican world box­ing cham­pion in his­tory and first Latin Amer­i­can to win the Light Heavy­weight title, knock­ing Pas­trano out in round nine.

In 1966, he suc­cess­fully defended his crown three times, with 15 round deci­sions over Wayne Thorn­ton and Eddie Cot­ton and a two round knock­out of Chic Calder­wood. In his next defense, how­ever, he would lose it to another Hall Of Fame mem­ber, Nigeria’s Dick Tiger, by a deci­sion in 15 rounds.

In 1967, he and Tiger had a rematch, and Tor­res lost a 15 round deci­sion again. Many fans thought he should have won it that time, and as a con­se­quence, a large scale riot fol­lowed the fight, with many New York City police­men called to the Gar­den arena to try to calm down the fans.

After his sec­ond defeat to Tiger, Tor­res only fought twice more, retir­ing after 1969.

Retire­ment and death

In his years after retir­ing from box­ing, he became a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Puerto Rican com­mu­nity in New York, meet­ing polit­i­cal lead­ers, giv­ing lec­tures and becom­ing the New York State Ath­letic Commission’s Com­mis­sioner from 1984 to 1988.    In 1986, he was cho­sen to sing the United States National Anthem before the world Light­weight cham­pi­onship bout between Jimmy Paul and Irleis Perez in Atlantic City,  New Jer­sey,  and in 1987,  he authored “Fire and Fear” a book about Tyson.   In 1990 he became Pres­i­dent of the WBO,  and he was Pres­i­dent until 1995.

He was also a mem­ber of the Inter­na­tional Box­ing Hall of Fame,  and reg­u­larly con­tributed a col­umn for El Diario La Prensa,  a Span­ish lan­guage news­pa­per in New York City.    He also wrote for The Vil­lage Voice.   He authored Sting Like a Bee,  a biog­ra­phy of Muham­mad Ali.    In 2007, Tor­res announced his deci­sion to move back to his home­town of Ponce,  Puerto Rico and con­cen­trate on writ­ing books and arti­cles related to sports and his­tory.   On August 6, 2008, Tor­res received recog­ni­tion for his mil­i­tary career. Tor­res died in the morn­ing of Jan­u­ary 19, 2009, of a heart attack at his home in Ponce,  Puerto Rico.

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