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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A 42-foot mosaic in Salinas honors boxer ‘Cholo’ Espada

A dozen Puerto Rican boxers and sports leaders attend unveiling



The mosaic honors former world welterweight boxing champion Ángel “Cholo” Espada with three special images: first as a young man, then at the climax of his career, and then in middle age, with his sporting distinction in hand. (Israel Morales)

By The Star Staff


Being honored in life by your people is a privilege that not all athletes experience, and that is the experience of Salinas boxer Ángel Luis “Cholo” Espada Mangual, who at 75 years old on Wednesday afternoon witnessed the unveiling of the “Always Champion” mosaic at the coliseum that bears his name in the Pueblo sector of the southern coastal town.


On Feb. 2, 1948, a boy was born in Colonia Fortuna de Salinas who later showed special abilities for the sport of boxing, and although his mother, Doña Eva, was not very happy with the idea, the young man, Espada Mangual, eventually became a World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion.


At the unveiling, Salinas Mayor Karilyn Bonilla told those present that the mosaic honors Cholo Espada with three special images: first as a young man, then at the climax of his career, and then in middle age, with his sporting distinction in hand.


“And I remind you of the following: those who come to enjoy this spectacular work of art have to discover where the musical notes are, because not everyone knows that Cholo Espada was also an outstanding conga player,” the mayor said. “Cholo is one of the great examples we have in Salinas of young people who fight for their dreams and move forward in life. He had 44 wins, 11 losses and four draws. He later worked in our Recreation and Sports Office.”


Roberto Biaggi, the creator of the mosaic, is also the creator of the work “Infinitos memorias de Doña Fela,” which graces the entrance to El Escambron parking lot in Puerta de Tierra.


“That mosaic in San Juan is 12 feet by 500 feet long; this one in Salinas is 42 by 16 feet,” the artist said. “The image in the center recreates that June 28, 1975 when he won in 15 rounds in front of a full house at Roberto Clemente Coliseum. Those who lived through that moment will remember this great feat.”


Also participating in the event were Tomás Cartagena, president of the Salinense Sports and Culture Hall of Fame, boxing champions Juan Laporte, Luvi Callejas, José “Cagüitas’ de Jesús, Iván Calderón, Ángel “El Nene” Sánchez, Alberto Mercado, Víctor Bisbal, Oscar Collazo and Jonathan “Bomba” González, as well as José Luis Vellón, vice president of the Puerto Rican Boxing Federation, Roberto Rodríguez, technical director of the boxing team, Wilson Santiago, from Miguel Cotto Promotion, Ángel Luis Morales, boxing coach.


Cholo’s grandson, Ángel Espada, who is the players performance coordinator for the Miami Marlins, traveled from Florida along with his family.


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