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Jockbeat: José Torres, Friend to the Voice

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Author, boxing official, champion prize fighter, and friend to the Voice José Torres died of a heart attack on Monday, January 19, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. RIchard Goldstein has a lengthy obit at the Times.

Torres’s Sting like A Bee: The Muhammad Ali Story, published in 1971 with a preface by Norman Mailer, is one of the ten best boxing books I’ve ever read. Through his friendship with Mailer, Pete Hamill, and Jack Newfield, Torres was a longtime supporter of the Voice and always willing to supply a quote or give an insight to a writer in need of one. As chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission from 1984-1988, Torres never failed to return a phone call or to answer a tough question.

There was, however, a brief tussle between Torres and the Voice that, in the interests of full disclosure, should be mentioned here. In 1988, we criticized José for cheerleading at ringside for Mike Tyson – who was managed and trained by Torres’s own mentor, Cus D’Amato – while heading the state’s athletic commission, a practice we thought to be a clear conflict of interest. Shortly after, we wrote about this, Torres resigned from the commission. (A year later, his book, Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson, was published.) It took us about a year to reestablish relations, but Torres held no grudge and continued to be a valuable source on issues relating to the fight game.

On a personal note, I was the one who wrote the item that offended him, but he grinned and threw a mock jab in the air at me before autographing my copy of Sting Like A Bee. Then he told me it had better not end up at The Strand.

Descansar en paz.

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