Flashing dance lights, smoke machines and thumping salsa music are things not usually associated with a professional boxer, but in the world of Willie Torres, they represent just another day in the life. Torres, who towers over most due to his considerable height and build, is the founder, owner and face of The New Palladium, a new Latino nightclub located at 229 W. Allegheny Ave.
Torres, originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, began boxing as a light heavyweight in the mid-1970s. Torres came to Philadelphia to be near his brother, and shortly began training at Joe Frazier’s Gym. He went on to win numerous titles and awards along the way. He fought in matches all over the world, even going toe-to-toe with Mohammed Ali. After retiring from the sport in 1982, Torres looked for new ways to enrich his life, and returned to his love of music and salsa dancing shortly thereafter.
“My life has been surrounded by entertainment due to the fact that my mother, when I was a little kid, was always into music,” Torres said. “I’ve been doing events all over the world, like the world salsa championship and being involved in the World Salsa Congress, so this is what I’ve done most of my life.”
After retiring from the boxing arena and revisiting his love for music, he quickly found another passion: giving back to the community. The New Palladium has become the manifestation of Torres’ dream.
The nightclub, which features both local artists and globally recognized musicians, opens its doors to the neighborhood several times a week. Additionally, the club hosts community musicians and holds numerous fundraisers. Torres is present every evening The New Palladium is open, and can be seen shaking hands with guests, providing friends with a laugh and dancing the night away.
“Every week we have different things going on,” Torres said. “We always try to bring a different atmosphere in a place in which people can party and share the love. I like to see friends of mine, and people I don’t even know become new friends of mine. That enjoyment lets me give back to the community.”