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Puerto Rican Boxing Legend Dies

El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: Jan 22, 2009

NEW YORK -- Tomorrow, Jose "Chegui" Torres will be laid to rest in his hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico. But his triumphs in and beyond the boxing ring will serve as inspiration for generations to come.

Torres was a heroin every sense of the word. He was a boxing legend, an accomplished journalist and writer, an Army veteran, and gave his all for the causes and community he loved.

Chegui, as he was affectionately known among his family, friends and the Puerto Rican community, rose to fame as an Olympic star. A middleweight boxer, he won a silver medal for the United States in 1956. His record setting did not stop there.

In professional boxing, Chegui became the third Puerto Rican to win a world boxing title and the first Latino to land the world light-heavyweight title. The year was 1965, and the day after he knocked out Willie Pastrano at Madison Square Garden, he received a heros welcome by throngs of people in El Barrio. Its where the powerhouse boxer chose to celebrate his victory.

As big as his stardom was, Chegui remained humble, friendly and accessible to all. He was passionate about social justice. This dedication he saw as a responsibility, especially in the face of a community suffering from discrimination and poverty.

Chegui was superbly talented far beyond the boxing ringthe pen replaced his jab. He became the first Latino columnist for the New York Post. He wrote highly praised biographies about Muhammad Ali and later Mike Tyson. And he chaired New York States state athletic commissionerthe first Hispanic to do soand served as supervisor of the World Boxing Organization.

At El Diario/La Prensa we hold a special place for this incomparable man. For years, Chegui was a columnist for this paper. He brought his relentless fighting spirit from the ring to defend the downtrodden and demand justicewhether he was advocating for the rights of workers or participating in civil disobedience to protest the U.S. Navys shelling of Vieques.

Chegui was a giant at the service of a community that needed him and that revered him. He never retreated and he always came out swinging.

Chegui will be deeply missed but never forgotten by the countless people whose lives he touched.


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