New York Magazine cover boy and state senate rascal Pedro Espada told reporter Chris Smith that one of his childhood heroes was late light heavyweight champion, Jose “Chegui” Torres. The legendary Torres, says Espada, taught him as a kid on the South Bronx streets to be a tough puncher and –more importantly — to also hit the books.
“I grew up in St. Mary’s public housing, on Caudwell Avenue, and I met Torres at St. Mary’s rec,” Espada tells Smith in this week’s profile. “Espada got some valuable career advice from Torres: Stay in school. Espada laughs. ‘The ability to take and dish out punishment I learned in the ring has stayed with me, though,'”
But friends of Torres, the great boxer-turned-writer who died in January at 72, say if Espada’s paid his respects to his inspiration it’s news to them.
Attorney Ramon Jimenez, a longtime Torres friend who helped organize a standing-room-only memorial for Torres in February at Hostos Community College says Espada was a no show. The senator also wasn’t around when Torres’s many pals threw a huge goodbye party for the fighter when he moved back to Puerto Rico a few years ago.
“They must have had a strange friendship as Espada failed to attend both the goodbye party we had for Jose, and the overcrowded memorial we had for him after his death,” says Jimenez, who leads the group, Friends of the South Bronx. “I never heard Jose ever mention this protege.”