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RIP Jose "Chegui" Torres

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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-21-09 12:19 PM
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RIP Jose "Chegui" Torres

Jose "Chegui" Torres, the former light heavyweight champion, died on Monday. He was 72. Younger sports fans on DU might not know who Jose was, and so I thought that Id explain why he was such an important figure in boxing history.

Torres was born in Puerto Rico, but grew up in New York City. He was a good amateur fighter, and won the NYC Golden Gloves, the AAU Nationals, and he won the silver medal in the 1956 Olympics at junior middleweight.

Cus DAmato watched Torres in the Olympics, and told a friend that he could turn Jose into a world champion in a very short time. This was at a time when the middleweight division in professional boxing was strong and sure enough, Torres would soon be fighting against many of the legendary warriors from that eras televised "Friday Night Fights."

DAmato taught Torres the "peek-a-boo" style, which allowed him to land his powerful punches faster and in "body-to-head" combinations. Other than a draw against Benny "Kid" Paret (who won a world title, but would die after his third fight with the great Emile Griffith), Torres was undefeated in his first five years as a pro. Then, he suffered his only knockout loss, against tough Florentino Fernandez. (I sometimes post photos of Rubin Carter knocking Fernandez through the ropes in the first round of their fight. It was supposed to be a tune-up for Fernandez before getting a title shot. Carter KOed him in 69 seconds; he was out cold for quite a bit longer than the fight lasted.)

Torres then beat Don Fullmer, Jose Gonzales, Wilbur McClure, and Gomeo Brennan all top conders. Then, after KOing former champion Bobo Olsen in the first round, Jose got his shot at the light heavyweight title. He KOed Willie Pastrano, one of Angelo Dundees best champions, in nine rounds. He won four more, including three defenses, before fighting former middleweight champion Dick Tiger, one of the toughest men in boxing history.

Tiger beat Torres by a close decision. In their return match, Tiger won a controversial decision. The crowd rioted inside and outside Madison Square Garden.

Torres fought twice more. In 67, he knocked out Bob Dunlap in six. In 1969, he returned to MSG. However, the day of the fight, his opponent backed out. The promoters found a last-minute substitute, Charlie "Devil" Green, who had previously served as a sparring partner for Torres. Legend has it that Green told the promoters that hed take the fight, because he could make more money ($3,500) than he could shooting craps that night. (I remember how Green used to wear "bib" over-alls in the locker room before fights. He would wear them with only one strap attached, and as a youngster, I thought it looked so cool!)

At the end of the first round, Green nailed Torres. If the bell hadnt have rung, Green would have knocked him out. In the second round, Torres knocked Green out. But he knew that it was time to quit.

He served as the NYS boxing commissioner, and authored a couple of books "Sting Like a Bee," a biography of Muhammad Ali, and "Fire and Fear," about Mike Tyson. He also wrote articles for numerous magazines and newspapers.

I have some film of Torres and my sons at the Boxing Hall of Fame. I remember that he was friends with Charles "Sonny" Liston, and after Listons death, when a reporter was saying that Sonny was dumb, Torres responded, "He was so smart it wasnt funny." He knew that intelligence isnt only measured by formal education. He often said that he had difficulty writing the thoughts in his mind, which were in Spanish, into English.

On the ESPN Classic feature on Rubin, Torres said that Carter could have been one of the greatest middleweight champions of all time, had he fulfilled his potential. He knew boxing much in the manner of Teddy Atlas, as both were students of Cus DAmato.

Torres was the third Puerto Rican to win a world title. In the mid-1960s, he became good friends with Robert F. Kennedy, and introduced RFK to the poverty that people endured in the ghettos of NYC. Jose was one of the best examples of the connection between the sport of boxing and the world of politics.
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RagAss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-23-09 11:57 PM
Response to Original message
1. Rest in Peace, Champ.
Jose faught just before I was old enough to follow boxing, but he was always in the discussion of great champions and was still a giant around the New York boxing scene in the Golden age of the 1970's, as a writer and resident expert. I read "Sting Like a Bee" when I was 14 and many of Jose's newspaper articles as a teen.

He will be missed.
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H2O Man Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 09:16 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. He was very impressive
in the ring. One of the things that I remember the most was that Jose had a brutal body attack, a skill that is too rare today.

Even when he was an active fighter, Torres was friends with everyone. That stood out, too.
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