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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