Almost 33 years on, we will never forget the Billy Collins Jr tragedy

Phil Jay 02/03/2017

At the 33rd anniversary approaches, WBN remembers the devastating events that transpired in ten months between June 1983 and March 1984.

Williams Ray Collins Jr. or Billy Collins Jr. as he became known, was born to a boxing father in Antioch, Tennessee in 1961.

His father William Sr, once fought Welterweight Champion Curtis Cokes and wanted his boy to follow in his footsteps, so decided to train Billy himself.

Collins Jr. turned pro in 1981, a welterweight, just like his father before him and impressively won his first 14 professional contests, 11 by knockout with eight inside the first three rounds.

It was 1983 and Billy was matched up against Puerto Rican journeyman Luis Resto on the undercard of Roberto Duran v Davey Moore at Madison Square Garden in a ten rounder.

collins resto
Resto wasn’t known for his punching power but Billy took a sustained beating for the full ten rounds, his face, badly damaged and his eyes were almost shut.

After the fight, which Resto won on decision, Billy’s father shook Resto’s hand and noticed there wasn’t much padding in his gloves and tried to alert the referee. The Puerto Rican pulled his hand away and protested his innocence.

After the fight, a full investigation was launched by the New York State Boxing Commission and as a result, it was found that Panama Lewis, Resto’s trainer had removed an ounce of padding from his boxer’s gloves to give him an unfair advantage.

Lewis was banned from any role in boxing for life, while Resto was told he could not box for at least a year, but never fought again.

An assault trial was ordered after the investigation’s findings and in 1986, Resto and Lewis were found guilty of using Luis Resto’s fist as a deadly weapon and both served two and a half years in prison.

Although both men were convicted, the damage had seemingly already been done. After the fight, Collins suffered a torn iris and permanent blurred vision as a result of Resto’s cheating and was told he could never box again. He lost two subsequent jobs and spiralled into a depression. Billy began smoking marijuana and drinking heavily. Violent mood swings then followed which threatened his marriage to his wife Andrea, who was only 18 and pregnant at the time.

In a sad ending to the whole event, Billy was involved in car crash near his home on March 6, 1984 which proved fatal, Billy was killed on impact and many people say that because of the depression and the fact he could never box again, he may have committed suicide.

collins jr billy
The family had already launched lawsuits against Top Rank Boxing (the promoters), the referee, the inspectors and Everlast, who made the gloves that were used, but because of Billy’s death, all were thrown out as a result.

In 2007, Resto belatedly came out with an apology to Collins’ wife (now known as Andrea Collins-Nile) in a documentary and in a dramatic twist, also revealed that his hands were soaked in plaster of Paris before the fight by Lewis. 

Amazingly, Resto stated the procedure had been performed on him at least twice in previous fights.

Lewis, now 71, remains active on the peripheral of the sport, whilst Collins had the defeat rightly removed from his professional record.