Torres is comeback kid
Bethlehem native went from streets to undefeated boxer
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.
Johnathan Torres, left, with Lemuel “Indio” Rodriguez.