Johnnie Flores, a prominent figure on the Los Angeles boxing scene and a decorated World War II soldier, is dead at 78.
Daryl Streicher, his son-in-law, said Flores' body was discovered Wednesday at the bottom of an elevator shaft at the Lincoln Heights gymnasium where Flores had been employed and coaching boxers since 1976.
The fifth-floor of the building, which once was a jail, was converted into the Los Angeles Youth Athletic Club.
Streicher said the building is old and in poor condition, and he suspects Flores might have stepped into an empty shaft on the first floor.
"It could have well been an accident," Streicher said. "It seems as though the elevator was stuck between the second and third floors. He may have opened the door on the first floor and fell to the bottom. It's a 12-foot drop, but he hit his head. He was killed instantly."
A coroner's report had yet to be filed on Flores as of Thursday.
Flores, who trained such fighters as Jerry Quarry, Dwight Hawkins and Ruben Navarro, was known as "Mr. Amateur Boxing." He is credited with luring countless wayward youths into gymnasiums.
At the old Lincoln Heights jail, Flores converted holding tanks into boxing rings and cells into changing rooms. He was inducted into the Golden Gloves Hall of Fame in 1989 and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
During World World II, as an Army infantryman, Flores earned the silver and bronze stars, as well as a purple heart.
Streicher said his father-in-law once captured 15 German soldiers. In 1944, Flores was seriously injured when a round of artillery fire exploded above an abandoned farmhouse in which Flores and five others had sought refuge. All five of his comrades were killed. Flores was struck with 33 pieces of shrapnel and spent years recovering from his wounds. He was never able to resume what had been a promising boxing career.
Flores, who lived in Castaic, is survived by Rose, his wife of 52 years, and three children. Funeral arrangements are pending.