LUIS RESTO AND THE TRAGIC STORY OF BILLY COLLINS JR (long read)

Photo Credit – NY Times Website

In 1983 undefeated American prospect Billy Collins Jr aged 21, took on Luis Resto in what turned out to be one of boxing’s most tragic and devastating story. There is many branches to the sad story of this memorable fight,  and after watching the ‘Assault in the ring’ Documentary, I got a true understanding of this historic infamous event.

Collins came into the fight undefeated with a record of 14-0-0 (11ko’s) and was the favourite. Resto, the Puerto Rican fighter came in with a record of 20-8-2 (8ko’s) and was bought into the fight as a step up in test for Collins. Resto was always known as a brawler and a engine who kept going, but his efforts in the ring that night seemed questionable as the damage he was inflicting to the face of Collins, did not replicate the power he had in his hands. Collins face was smashed to pieces, with both eyes suffering significant damage and causing Collins noticeable trouble throughout the fight, however despite all this, Collins would last in the distance and refused to quit. After the fight went to the scorecards, and Resto won he then went over to the corner of Collins Jr and shook the hands of his father, Billy Collins Sr as a sign of respect. Its then when the controversy started, and one of boxing’s most famous tragedies unraveled.

When shaking hands at the end of the fight, Collins Sr grabbed Resto’s gloves and refused to let go, calling the state commissioner to come and  check the gloves as he was suspicious something wasn’t right. Resto looked straight over at his trainer Panama Lewis instead of acting surprised, and Lewis ran over to the corner repeatedly  shouting “Those were the gloves you gave us!” The referee took Resto’s gloves off him and took them back to the dressing room to be examined, and then passed the gloves on for the authorities and specialists to check. It was then that people realized Resto’s gloves had the padding taken out, and was fighting with less padding than Collins Jr, causing the inflicted damage to Collins Jr’s face. Questions were then asked of how Resto’s hands and knuckles wouldnt have been broken after repeatedly punching someone in the face with almost next to nothing padding. The story gets worse as it was later revealed Resto’s hand wraps were dipped in plaster so that they turned rock solid and allowed Resto to hit with no issues.

Time went by whilst things were being dealt with in court and people were trying to get to the bottom of what happened. Collins Jr had lost the majority of his eye sight and was told he was never going to be able to box again. Collins then turned to alcohol and became severely depressed and as a result of this, he hit self destruct mode. His wife commentated on how aggressive and violent he became and would sometimes lock himself in his apartment, have a drink and trash the place. Collins Jr, a 22 year old retired boxer, had his dreams taken away from him. A very promising young prospect’s life had been crushed and the struggle of never being able to box again got too much. Collins Jr got in his car, and drove straight into a ditch and hit a tree only a mile away from his house. Most calling it suicide, and some saying it could have been an accident, its a tragic end of a life of a 22 year old future star. His family tried to sue for damages, but there was no sufficient evidence for the claims to go ahead, and in turn, Collins family received nothing.

Resto was permanently banned from boxing ever again, and his trainer Panama Lewis was banned from ever being in a boxers corner again and both served 3 years in prison. Both still claiming at the time that they had no idea who done that to the gloves, and sticking to the same story, the confusion became an outrage across the sport and was a truly horrible accident that should never have happened. Later on in life when Resto was trying to rebuild himself after moving back to the Bronx and living a very poor lifestyle, he decided to contribute to the documentary and spoke out to try and bring some justice to light. It was clear to see how badly Resto’s life had been effected and there is a sense of sympathy for a man who was clearly naive and would have done anything his trainer had asked him. He revealed there was big money players involved and cocaine drug dealers that had huge money on a Resto upset, which his trainer Panama Lewis was involved in. To ensure the corrupted gamblers received the promise they had been kept too, a young mans life was ruined.

Resto said he saw his trainer Panama Lewis go into the bathroom with one of his other cornermen with the pair of gloves and when he came out they acted like nothing had happened. He later admitted he knew of his gloves been tampered with, and his wraps were dipped in plaster and made him unable to move his hands once they were locked into position. All sympathy was then lost for a man who knew he was stepping into the ring and endangering  a boxers life. To this day his trainer Panama Lewis still denies all of these accusations and claims he has no idea who was to blame for the gloves. He said he went into the bathroom with the gloves, but why is that such a crime, there’s no proof I did it? Resto later admitted he was given a bottle of water in the later rounds that had been mixed with a pill used for asthmatic people to open up their lungs and give them a boost of energy. Another accusation Lewis also denies.

A very tragic story in a sport which is dangerous enough without things like this going on in the background. The story will be remembered in the sport of boxing forever and there is now a lot stricter procedures in place to stop things like this happening in the future.

You can view the full documentary here!

 

 

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