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Thank You, Chegüí

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As many of you know, there are occasional instances in which I stray from the topic of the passion of billions and have to talk about something that is going on in the world or my life.

In this particular instance it is the latter.

While working at ESPN, I was a former boxing fan that had gone the way of dinosaur.   I was enamored by the sport because of fighters like Salvador Sánchez, Roberto Durán, and ¨Sugar¨ Ray Leonard.  I was disillusioned by it for the farce that it became.  Ironically, I was ¨stuck¨ doing the sport I had fallen out of love with but that all changed quickly.  My first night working on boxing saw me trying to take an older man that was working there as the  analyst and took him with me around campus on our way to the voiceover booth.  A cheery soul that laughed at every turn.  He smiled at every face, regardless of whether he knew them or not.   He carried himself in a dignified fashion; more importantly he carried himself with a great spirit. He always had a thirst to live and do it in a passionate way. That was José ¨Chegüí¨ Torres.   His passion for boxing gave me the desire to ¨reconciliate¨ with the sport I considered dead for a good part of my adult life.  He

I had the honor of working with him and saw him as a man full of life.  He was a man that radiated life and there was no way in which some of that zest would rub off on you. I was the person in charge of supervising the voice overs for various international boxing productions done in Bristol.

The more I got to know him, the more I wanted to know about him.   The more I talked to him, the less I knew about anything.  But what made him so unique was that he was willing to teach you, he was willing to inform you.  ¨Chegüí¨ didn´t just talk to you, he brought you into a conversation.  He didn´t just talk about his life, he brought you into it.  There were times he would talk to me about his life in Tribeca and how he would talk about  ¨Bobby¨ (DeNiro), which he saw at his favorite deli every so often.  He would talk to me like I met him in his living room the night before.  He was personable yet an intellectual of the sport.  As an author and a writer, he encouraged me to write.  So for that I was always grateful.

He would also talk about his wife, Ramona as a kid would when encountering a serious case of ¨puppy love¨.   If there was a couple that I truly want to emulate it was these two people.  Their love was as strong as it was the first day they met.   She was always his faithful companion.  She was there by his side.  Look at the definition of true love and there has to be a picture of those two together.   It was endearing to see those two lovebirds at one of the cubicles prior to going on the air.

I never got to see him fight, but I did get to experience snippets of the man he was.  When Floyd Patterson died, he was trying to do everything in his power to go to New Paltz, NY to pay homage to his fallen colleague.  I remember having to Mapquest the directions for him to get there, whether he went or not I will never know.  What counts in the end of all of this was that he wanted to be there for a person that was important in his life.

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One of the final times that I saw him was when we did a boxing card and it was Torres´ 70th birthday.  His smile was a microcosm of the the appreciation for the love people had towards him.  Whether it was when he won the silver medal in the 1956 Olympics, or at Madison Square Garden (a place he called home for several of his big fights during his heyday in the 1960´s), or the reception he got every time he visited his beloved Puerto Rico.  He was appreciative of the love he got from his fans after winning the WBC and WBA light heavyweight titles from Willie Pastrano.

There he was Maradona and DiStefano.  There he was Pelé and Rivelino.  He always took that appreciation with that smile.

I might just be a person that Chegüí encountered for a short period of time, but he forever touched me.  For that reason I send out my deepest condolences to Ramona, his family, as well as the other people that he touched in Puerto Rico and all over the world.

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