Tor­res is come­back kid

Beth­le­hem na­tive went from streets to un­de­feated boxer

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Keith Groller Keith Groller can be reached at 610-820-6740 or at [email protected]

Johnathan Tor­res had no di­rec­tion in his life.

A tough fam­ily sit­u­a­tion led him to the streets.

“I was on the wrong path,” Tor­res said. “I was drink­ing and smok­ing at a young age. I didn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t know where I would be if I didn’t get help.”

Tor­res now knows where he will be. He will be fight­ing on a box­ing card at the Wind Creek Event Cen­ter Satur­day night, where he will put his un­de­feated record on the line against Kaylin Waites of Dal­las, Texas, in a six-round ban­tamweight bat­tle.

In his cor­ner will be Le­high Val­ley Sports Hall of Fame trainer Le­muel “In­dio” Ro­driguez, who is also Tor­res’ adopted fa­ther.

Ro­driguez, who re­lates to young kids in need of help be­cause he was once a mid­dle school dropout him­self, knows the sport of box­ing. He has trained dozens of bud­ding box­ers through the Beth­le­hem Box­ing Club, and now through his own gym.

He has worked with for­mer UFC light­weight cham­pion Frankie Edgar, for­mer WBO light wel­ter­weight cham­pion DeMar­cus “Chop Chop” Cor­ley, and light wel­ter­weight cham­pion Danny “Swift” Gar­cia.

But his big­gest wins come in the lives he has helped to save through box­ing.

“In this gym, we’ve helped so many kids,” Ro­driguez said. “There are a lot of great sto­ries here. So many kids have a rough life. Some of them are fos­ter kids. A lot of them would be sell­ing drugs with­out box­ing. Johnathan, though, is one of the best sto­ries.”

Ro­driguez met Tor­res nine years ago, when Tor­res was just 11.

“I opened my gym at the Beth­le­hem Boys Club and he was one of the kids who came in there,” Ro­driguez said. “He was at first a happy kid, but then one day a month later he was stay­ing in the cor­ner of the gym and not talk­ing to no­body. I asked his brother what was wrong. He told me he had to deal with an al­co­holic fa­ther and abuse.”

Ro­driguez ap­proached Tor­res to learn more about his sit­u­a­tion.

“Johnathan told me he couldn’t take it any more,” Ro­driguez said. “He told me he wasn’t eat­ing for days. He had no food, no cloth­ing, noth­ing. He was liv­ing in the streets. He would go to friends’ houses to get some food.”

His grand­fa­ther, Miguel Tor­res, was a good per­son and tried to do what he could, but de­cided it was best to al­low Ro­driguez to take over.

So, Ro­driguez said he talked it over with his wife, Car­men, and they took Johnathan home.

“Ev­ery­thing hap­pened so fast and we needed to take ac­tion right away,” Car­men Ro­driguez said. “In­dio de­cided to do it and then he called me and told me what was go­ing on. My re­ac­tion was ‘OK, we’ll see what hap­pens.’ As it turned out, it has been won­der­ful. We gave Johnathan a sta­ble home and a close fam­ily he didn’t have be­fore. He’s learned a lot from us.”

Car­men Ro­driguez said like any young adult, Johnathan needed a push.

“That’s what we’re here for,” she said. “We tried to push him to do good things and stay fo­cused and pos­i­tive. I treat him like he was my own child and I gave birth to him. He knows that I’m al­ways here to help him when­ever he needs it. I’m also proud of my hus­band for help­ing him. If it was up to In­dio, we’d have a house full of kids. He loves kids and wants to help them.”

In­dio and Car­men Ro­driguez were proud par­ents as Johnathan Tor­res grad­u­ated with honors from Lib­erty High School in 2017. He is now be­gin­ning his sec­ond year at Northamp­ton Com­mu­nity Col­lege while train­ing for fights.

“I wanted him to go to col­lege and get some­thing good out of that,” Car­men Ro­driguez said. “I know he’s a very good boxer, but I wanted him to have some­thing to fall back on if God for­bid some­thing hap­pens to him in the ring.”

Johnathan Tor­res en­joys col­lege, but his fo­cus is on his as­cend­ing ca­reer.

“Box­ing saved my life,” he said. “I am not look­ing back to where I was. I’m just glad for what I al­ready have.”

Tor­res has fought sev­eral times be­fore at the event cen­ter, which is a stone’s throw from In­dio’s Gym on Beth­le­hem’s south side.

When he is in­tro­duced, the home­town star, who has a nick­name of Quick, hears a loud ova­tion. It’s a re­ward for his hard work.

“My main goal right now is to be­come a cham­pion, and once I meet that goal I will set another goal,” he said. “Maybe I will be a mul­ti­ple di­vi­sion world cham­pion. I work hard at it. I am train­ing ev­ery day, ex­cept some­times I will rest on a Sun­day.”

No mat­ter where his ca­reer takes him, Tor­res knows he can count on Ro­driguez be­ing by his side, as he has been for nearly a decade.

“He’s my fa­ther, my coach, my men­tor, my best friend,” Tor­res said. “He hasn’t only helped me. This gym has saved lives. The guys in this gym are fam­ily. When you come here, you feel you’re home. There are a lot of peo­ple in here who have been through a lot of the same things I’ve been through and he’s helped them. He’s an amaz­ing man.”

The rest of the card: The nine-bout card, which be­gins at 7 p.m., is pro­moted by King’s Pro­mo­tions.

The fea­ture will have Mykal Fox of Up­per Forestvill­e, Mary­land (20-1, five knock­outs) fac­ing Eudy Bernard (25-4, 18 KOs) of the Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

In the eight-round co-fea­ture, Erik Spring (13-2-2, 1 KO) of Read­ing races Court­ney Pen­ning­ton (12-4-3, 5 KOs) in a ju­nior mid­dleweight fight.

Ni­co­las Her­nan­dez (9-4-1, 2 KOs) of Le­banon meets Ter­rance Wil­liams (5-3-1, 1 KO) of Har­ris­burg in a ju­nior mid­dleweight fight.

Allentown’s Martino Jules (6-0) of Allentown meets Michael Stoute (3-1) of Long Is­land in a feath­er­weight con­test.

Rasheed John­son (6-2, 2 KOs) of Wil­low Grove fights Kashon Hutchin­son (5-5 1 KO) of Read­ing in a wel­ter­weight fight.

Khainell Wheeler of Beth­le­hem (2-0, 2 KOs) fights Juan Za­p­ata (6-15-2, 4 KOs) from the Bronx in a in a su­per mid­dleweight bout.

Bran­don Mullins (5-0, 2 KOs) of Ne­wark, Delaware, faces Brent Oren (1-1) of Har­ris­burg in a mid­dleweight fight, and Jose Lopez (0-1-1) of New York City takes on Jer­rod Miner (1-6-2, 1 KO) of Philadel­phia in a ban­tamweight fight.

KEITH GROLLER/THE MORN­ING CALL

Johnathan Tor­res, left, with Le­muel “In­dio” Ro­driguez.

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