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Home » Almost 40 years on, never forget the tragedy of Billy Collins Jr

Almost 40 years on, never forget the tragedy of Billy Collins Jr

As the 40th anniversary of Billy Collins Jr vs Luis Resto approaches next year, WBN remembers the devastating events.

The shocking incidents occurred in ten months between June 1983 and March 1984.

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

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

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

Billy Collins Jr vs Luis Resto

It was June 1983, and Billy found himself matched up against Puerto Rican journeyman Luis Resto. The bout was booked on the undercard of Roberto Duran vs Davey Moore at Madison Square Garden and scheduled as a ten-rounder.

Resto wasn’t known for his punching power. However, Billy took a sustained beating for the complete ten rounds. At the end of the contest, his face was severely damaged, and his eyes were almost shut.

Judges carded for Resto on a decision. But as Billy’s father shook Resto’s hand to congratulate the victory, he noticed little padding in his gloves and tried to alert the referee.

The Puerto Rican shudderingly pulled his hand away and protested his innocence. A scandal was instantly born.

Panama Lewis

The New York State Athletic Commission launched a full investigation after the fight. As a result, it was found that Panama Lewis, Resto’s trainer, had removed an ounce of padding from his boxer’s gloves, giving him an unfair and horrifically dangerous advantage.

The NYSAC banned Lewis from any role in boxing for life. Meanwhile, Resto got told he could not box for at least a year.

Due to the sheer scale of what transpired and the guilt of his crimes, Resto would never fight again.

Investigators ordered an assault trial after the findings. And in 1986, the pair were found guilty of using Luis Resto’s gloves with missing padding and exposed fists in criminal possession of a weapon. A deadly one at that.

Lewis and Resto served two and a half years in prison.

Although both men were convicted, the damage had seemingly already been done.

Collins forced to retire

Collins suffered terrible injuries and faced a long time out of the sport before his worst fears were realized when doctors discovered a career-ending ailment.

A torn iris gave Collin permanently blurred vision due to Resto’s cheating. Billy faced never being able to box again.

In an attempt to return to everyday family life, Collins found it almost impossible. The now forcibly-retired fighter lost two subsequent jobs and spiraled into a depression.

Billy began smoking marijuana and drinking heavily. Violent mood swings then followed.

They threatened his marriage to his wife Andrea, who was only 18 and pregnant then.

Car Accident

In the most horrific ending imaginable to the whole sickening event, Billy was involved in a car accident near his home on March 6, 1984, which proved fatal.

The accident killed Billy on impact. Many people remain sure that the depression and the fact that he could never box again may have contributed to suicide.

His family had already launched lawsuits against Top Rank Boxing [the event’s promoters], the referee, the inspectors, and Everlast, the glove manufacturer.

However, simply because of Billy’s death, all were thrown out as a result.

In 2008, Resto belatedly apologized to Collins’ wife [now known as Andrea Collins-Nile] in a compelling documentary entitled ‘Assault in the Ring.’

Hand wraps

And in a dramatic twist, Resto also revealed that Lewis soaked his hands in a plaster of Paris-type substance before the fight.

Amazingly, Billy’s opponent also stated the procedure had been performed on him at least twice in previous fights.

Lewis never admitted his part in the outcome. He died in 2020 protesting his innocence after returning to the aid of boxers later in his career.

He remained active on the sport’s periphery to further calls to ban him for life.

Without substance or evidence, Lewis blamed fellow cornerman Artie Curley for wrapping Resto’s hands in the dressing room.

No contest

Subsequently, authorities removed the defeat from Billy’s professional record as a no-contest. His final tally rightly reads 14-0 with 11 KOs.

Who knows where he might have taken his career if he was allowed to do so without the unfathomable intervention of two men on that fateful night?

Boxing will never forget the name Billy Collins Jr.

Phil Jay is an experienced boxing news writer. Follow on Twitter @PhilJWBN. Follow WBN: Facebook, Insta, Twitter