By Jorge J. Muņiz Ortiz
SAN JUAN -- Puerto Rico's ex-world champion boxer Jose "Chegui" Torres died Monday before dawn of respiratory failure at his home in the southern city of Ponce. He was 72.
He is survived by his wife, Ramona Ortiz, and four children.
Torres began his boxing career while on active duty with the U.S. Army and represented the United States at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
There he won the silver medal in the middleweight division. Despite having represented the United States, Torres told everyone he was Puerto Rican, always wore the Puerto Rican colors and went around with the island's Olympic delegation.
Torres made his professional debut in 1958 in New York, where he won by a knockout over George Hamilton in the first round.
He was declared champion by the World Boxing Council and the World Boxing Association when he won by a knockout over then-U.S. champion Willie Pastrano on March 30 in New York.
He effectively defended both titles three times, one of them against Eddie Cotton on Aug. 15, 1966 in a 15-round victory by unanimous decision that Ring Magazine rated the "fight of the year."
Torres lost his title on Dec. 16, 1966 to the Nigerian Dick Tiger by a unanimous decision.
The Puerto Rican demanded a rematch, which was held on May 16, 1967, but Tiger successfully defended his title, winning the nod by a split decision.
Torres finished his career with a record of 41 wins, three defeats and a draw.
After he retired, he decided to settle in New York, where he became a representative of the Puerto Rican community.
He was also commissioner of the New York State Athletic Commission from 1984-1988.
As commissioner he published the book "Fire and Fear," a biography of ex-U.S. fighter Mike Tyson.
He was also a columnist for the New York Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Prensa and was admitted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997.
The former president of the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission, Jose "Toto" Peņagaricano, told Efe that he will always remember Torres as an "agreeable and simple" person that he never saw "in a bad mood."
"Chegui's life was quite a story. He was a tremendous champion and a person involved in the New York State Athletic Commission and much more," Peņagaricano said. EFE