After nearly a quarter century of denials, Luis Resto has finally come clean. At a Manhattan press conference on April 3, the onetime welterweight prospect admitted that he knew that his trainer Carlos “Panama” Lewis had removed about a quarter of the horsehair in his boxing gloves on the night he beat the previously undefeated Billy Collins Jr. at Madison Square Garden.
The 10 round Collins/Resto fight, which occurred on June 16, 1983, was part of the undercard of the Roberto Duran-Davey Moore extravaganza.
The incident involving Collins Jr. and Resto has long been considered one of the most sordid incidents in a sport known for sleaze.
The relatively light-hitting Resto, who was then 19-8-2 (8 KOS), had given a tremendous beating to the 21-year-old Collins, who was 14-0 (11 KOS) going into the fight. Many insiders considered him to be a blue-chip prospect.
At several intervals throughout the fight, Collins Jr. had told his father and trainer, a former welterweight contender named Billy Sr., that Resto “is a lot stronger than I thought.” At the end of the fight, Collins Sr. went to shake Resto’s hands and noticed that the padding was missing. He began screaming for officials to safeguard the gloves.
Resto or Lewis never admitted to any wrongdoing in this incident, but both were convicted of several crimes after jury trials. Each served several years in state prison and were banned from boxing for life.
Lewis, who is now 52, went on to unofficially work with such fighters as Joe Gatti and Frans Botha, while Resto still works with youngsters at the Morris Park Gym in the Bronx. For many years he has inhabited a squalid apartment connected to the gym.
Collins never got over the heartbreak of the loss and began to drink heavily. Less than a year after the fight, he was killed in an auto accident in his native Tennessee. Many of his family members believe he committed suicide.
On the day of the press conference, Resto not only admitted to having full knowledge of Lewis’ chicanery, he also made another startling admission. He said that Lewis had placed plaster underneath his hand wraps. If this is true, both Resto and Lewis should have served a lot more prison time than they did.
This new evidence is being used as the cornerstone of a soon to be released documentary film called “Cornered,” which is directed by former booking agent Eric Drath, as well as a new civil suit against the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC).
According to the press release, the film “exposes to the whole truth behind what really happened that June evening in the world’s most famous arena. ‘Cornered’ reveals the lurid chain of events that allowed a boxer to endure a 30 minute assault. What transpired before and during the Collins-Resto fight was so heinous, it led to Resto’s conviction, incarceration and lifetime ban from boxing. The brutally beaten Collins quickly fell into a tragic downward spiral.”
Marc R. Thompson of the New York law firm Pulvers, Pulvers and Thompson is representing Andrea Collins-Nile, the widow of the late Collins Jr., in the civil suit. He has recently filed a motion to reopen the case.
If the previous civil cases are any indication, he has an uphill battle. The first civil suit was dismissed on a technicality and the second resulted in a hung jury. A Court of Claims case against the State of New York was dismissed, and an Appeals Court affirmed the dismissal.
The reasons for the dismissals relate to the fact that the NYSAC rules at the time were “vague” and “nebulous.” Although NYSAC inspectors were there to secure the safety of the fighters, there were no clear-cut rules that stated an inspector had to be present when the gloves or hand wraps actually went on the fighter.
Moreover, the court determined that there was no requirement to check the surface of the interior of the gloves. The Court of Claims basically said the State had no duty to protect Billy Collins Jr.
Many of those rules have been changed, so it is highly unlikely that such an egregious incident could happen today.
In the years after the incident, Randy Gordon was appointed to the position of New York State Athletic Commissioner. He was present at the press conference, where he confronted Resto in the strongest of terms.
“You used to come to my office and ask for your license back,” Gordon told Resto. “I said, ‘Did you know that the padding was taken out of the gloves?’ On many occasions, you said you did not.”
On this date, the waif-looking Resto hung his head and admitted that he not only knew Lewis removed the glove padding and loaded his hand wraps with plaster, he also said that Lewis had done it before.
He couldn’t remember the names of those opponents, but when pressed he said it had occurred in Italy and Venezuela.
The only time Resto fought in Italy was in April 1978, against Mario Omar Guilotti. He lost an eight round decision. And the only time he fought in Venezuela was three months later, in July 1978. He was stopped in one round by Luis Primera, which meant Lewis went 1 for 3 in the glove-tampering shenanigans.
Asked if he resisted Lewis’s attempts to cheat, Resto said he did not. “I said, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it,’” admitted Resto.
In the build-up to the Collins fight, Resto said there was a lot of posturing between Lewis and Collins Sr. He believes it resulted in a bet being made between the two on whether or not Collins Jr. would last the distance.
Resto knew what he was doing was wrong, but says he never resisted Lewis’ attempts at fight fixing.
“At the time, I was young,” he said. “I went along.”
Immediately after administering the dreadful beating to Collins Jr., he said he was consumed by grief and guilt. For years he told his children, who are now 30 and 23, that he was innocent. While serving prison time, he said he was treated like “a superstar” by his fellow convicts.
But, he says, the knowledge of what he had done was eating at the core of his being. After developing a relationship with Drath and finally coming clean, Resto said he felt 20 years younger.
“It took a lot of guts for him to do what he did,” said Drath. “Roger Clemens was not willing to do what he did. Luis and I spent a lot of time together during the making of the film. We created a relationship of trust. He carried around the weight of what he did for 25 years. I think his admitting what he did brought him a certain type of spiritual redemption.”
To this day, Lewis denies any criminal involvement in the fight between Resto and Collins Jr. When told about Resto’s controversial statements, he said he had nothing bad to say about Resto and would continue to pray for him.
The widow of Collins Jr. was reached by phone during the press conference. She was asked if she has forgiven Resto and, if not, if she would ever be capable of forgiving him.
“Ultimately I’m not Luis Resto’s judge,” she said.
Steve Farhood, the commentator for ShoBox: The New Generation, is considered one of the most honorable people in a sport that many consider a most ignoble profession.
He was present for the Collins Jr.-Resto debacle, and is still affected by what he saw, as well as what he later learned.
“My first reaction is an emotional one,” he said immediately after Resto admitted being involved in the diabolical plot against Collins Jr. “It gives me an oily feeling to be part of this business. When something this heinous can happen, it destroys any faith you can have in the decency of people.”
When asked if he had any empathy for the pitiable Resto, he recounted a visit to his living quarters about 10 years ago for a story he wrote for Britain’s Boxing Monthly magazine.
“His living conditions were so pathetic, you had to have no heart to not feel bad for this fellow human being,” he said.
But, he added, “I believe in accountability for one’s actions. He was not a child when this happened. He was an adult, so for that reason my pity goes only so far.”