Fighting

A phone call was responsible for getting this Hall of Famer back into the sports he loves

Johnny Torres coaches kids in boxing at Blakley Park in Homestead. Davaus McGown puches away.
Johnny Torres coaches kids in boxing at Blakley Park in Homestead. Davaus McGown puches away.

Enshrinement into a Hall of Fame recognizes and celebrates an inductee’s career accomplishments.

When Johnny Torres learned of his upcoming induction into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame six months ago, the recognition also served another purpose. The Hall of Fame call prompted Torres, 60, to return to boxing. After a five-decade career as a fighter, trainer, manager, promoter and everything from cleaning gyms to assembling rings, Torres separated from the sport five years ago.

“I was going through personal problems, and boxing at that time took a back seat,” Torres said. “Recently, my girlfriend encouraged me to take an interest in boxing again.

“When the Hall of Fame people called me and I heard those words, ‘Congratulations, Johnny on your selection to the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame,’ it just hit me. I have to get back into boxing.”

For Torres, a fixture in the Homestead boxing scene since the late 1970s, the return to the sport will likely feature promoting and re-starting an amateur program in the south Miami-Dade city.

“There are so many ways of informing the public about a product,” Torres said. “Personally, I had no problem going door to door and talking to people. But now we spread the message through social media and also use that to present shows.”

Torres’ passion toward boxing began, when, as a 16-year-old boy working the Homestead tomato fields, he visited a Homestead gym operated by trainer and manager Ben Lonic.

“I wanted to be involved and help in any way I could,” Torres said. “Ben said he couldn’t pay me, but I didn’t care. I started out by cleaning the gym and next thing you know, I was learning to wrap hands and helping train fighters.”

After a brief amateur career, Torres turned professional in 1979. South Florida boxing of the early 1980s featured cards at a frequent pace. Rivalries also developed between fighters from different local cities. Torres, brothers Steve and Kenny Whetstone, and Dexter Smith headed the contingent of Homestead-based fighters.

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Johnny Torres referees as Quantrell Williams (10) and German Pena (11) duke it out. Miami Herald file

Torres’ career milestones included two stints as Florida junior-welterweight champion. In August 1981, Torres knocked out previously unbeaten Isidoro Moreno for his first 140-pound title and finished him again within the distance a month later. Torres won his second state title with a knockout victory over Pedro Laza in 1983.

After his retirement as a fighter in 1985, Torres turned to training, managing and promoting. Torres’ post-fighting activities also included training his son, Rocky, whose 29-bout career ran from 1995 to 2003.

“When it comes to boxing, you name it and I’ve done it,” Torres said. “Boxing took me everywhere, and now I am ready to resume new adventures.”

Torres and the rest of the 2018 Hall of Fame class will be inducted during a ceremony June 24 that culminates three days of events at the Westshore Grand Hotel in Tampa. The new class also features additional members with local ties.

Edwin Pope, the celebrated Miami Herald columnist, who chronicled boxing during a storied eight-decade career, will be inducted posthumously. The Hall of Fame media wing of 2018 also includes award-winning columnist Tom Archdeacon, who covered boxing for The Miami News from the early 1970s to the newspaper’s closing in 1988, and Telemundo network’s Rene Giraldo, one of the nation’s top Spanish-language sportscasters.

Miami-based trainers Patrick Burns, who guided Jermain Taylor to the world middleweight title, and Jorge Rubio, whose list of fighters includes super-bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, also are members of the incoming Hall of Fame class.

For information on the event, call 813-884-7711-or visit the Hall of Fame website at www.floridaboxinghalloffame.com.



AROUND THE RING

Late Saturday, Terence Crawford scored a ninth-round technical knockout victory over Jeff Horn and captured the World Boxing Organization welterweight title in Las Vegas. Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs) now has won championships in three separate weight classes.

Leo Santa Cruz retained his World Boxing Association featherweight belt with a hard-fought unanimous decision over Abner Mares late Saturday in Los Angeles. Santa Cruz (35-1-1) won all three judges’ scorecards, 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113.

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