The Inspiration Behind It All: A look at the life of Willie Torres
July 30, 2006
by Cathy Bartch
Behind this weekend’s spectacular and exciting production is the inspiration of a man who has been devoted to Salsa and the Philadelphia community for most of his life. Known as the “Master of Salsa,” Willie Torres’ has relentlessly dedicated himself to salsa education and awareness as well bringing the dance and the music alive in the city. His hard work, creative imagination, and brilliant insight brought together previous Philadelphia Salsa Congresses and for what promises to be an exciting one this year in a way that appears effortless and magical.
Mr. Torres’ professional life is fascinating and quite eclectic. Besides his work and devotion to salsa, Willie Torres has had a long career in boxing and the construction business. He is the President of Willie Torres, Inc., WT Productions, the Global Salsa Association, and W.T. Boxing promotions. He is an internationally sought after producer and administrator in addition to having an excellent reputation among Owners, Architects, and Engineers with whom he has worked with over the past 20 years in the construction business. Prior to forming his own construction company, he was a professional boxer, and was a World Contender in the Middle and Heavyweight classes. Mr. Torres boxed under the name of “Spanish Flash.” He achieved an impressive record of 16 wins out of 19 professional fights; 14 of them were by knock out. He has received numerous accolades and recognition for his boxing performance. In addition, he is the producer of Telemundo’s Boxing Entertainment events.
Having a strong desire to give back to his community that has been so supportive of him, Mr. Torres established and organized the first Hispanic boxing gymnasium in North Philadelphia. For 23 years, his free, nonprofit gym has reached out to hundreds of youth from the inner city and surrounding areas and has encouraged them to develop their boxing talents, athletic abilities, discipline and a strong sense of identity. The gym serves as a place of support for local youth as it educates and counsels them to pursue higher goals in life. In fact, the theme of Mr.Torres’ boxing gym is not to make fighters, but to shape the men and women of tomorrow.
For many years, Willie Torres has had an interest in salsa and has been involved in the organization of a number of Latin American Music Festivals in here and elsewhere. In 1998, he became a member of the World Salsa Congress and traveled intensely throughout different countries and cities assisting in the production of the event. Some of the places included Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy, Panama, Hawaii, Chicago, and New York. In 2002, he founded the “Salsa Life Time Excellence Awards” presented to Ismael Miranda and Puppi Lagaretta. Mr. Torres produced Philadelphia’s First Salsa Congress in 2004 and Philadelphia’s First ever Salsa on the Parkway bringing in Performers such as La India and Huey Dunbar. He also produced the largest assembly of Salsa dancers at one location breaking the Guinness Book of World Record with a total of 4,250 people dancing to the same routine!
In addition to all of this, Mr. Torres has been heavily involved in the political community, including his work as a campaign coordinator for a previous mayoral candidate. He is well known and highly recognized for his tremendous service to Philadelphia. The community is fortunate to have such a caring and phenomenal individual that is able to share, teach and encourage others to partake in his two, albeit perhaps oddly juxtaposed, passions of boxing and salsa. His work in these two areas has undoubtedly brought positive change to the community and touched the lives of many.