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Bare Knuckles
Jeff Pearlman
October 26, 1998
The night Billy Collins fought Luis Resto, something was terribly wrong with Resto's gloves. The beating Collins took cost him his career—and maybe his life
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October 26, 1998

Bare Knuckles

The night Billy Collins fought Luis Resto, something was terribly wrong with Resto's gloves. The beating Collins took cost him his career—and maybe his life

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Immediately after the fight, when Billy Ray Collins Sr. stuck out his hand and shook Resto's right glove, he felt leather over fist—no padding. The ensuing dialogue was captured by the TV cameras.

Collins: "Hey! All of the padding is out of the damn gloves. It's all out."

Resto (looking across the ring toward Lewis for help): "Huh?"

Collins: "Commissioner.... Commissioner! No padding.... There's no damn padding."

Nine months later, in the early hours of March 7, 1984, a drunken Billy Ray Collins Jr., out of boxing, unemployed and deeply depressed, drove his '72 Oldsmobile Cutlass off Old Franklin Road in Antioch and into Collins Creek, which had been named for his ancestors. He died on impact.

"You don't think Resto knew he didn't have padding in the gloves?" Billy Ray Sr. says. "You don't think Panama Lewis took it out? I've had 15 years to think about it, and I know—I know—that they did. They killed him. They killed my son."

There are two tombstones atop Billy Ray Collins Jr.'s grave site at the Woodlawn Funeral Home in Nashville. One, put there by his widow, Andrea Collins Morse, reads A GREAT FIGHTER. The other, furnished by his parents, Billy Ray Sr. and Bettye Collins, says: I ASKED JESUS 'HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME?' 'THIS MUCH,' HE ANSWERED. THEN HE STRETCHED OUT HIS ARMS AND DIED.

"I think about my son every day," says Billy. "I can't help it."

"Collins is in my mind," says Resto. "Always."

"That's a ghost Panama has had to live with for far too long," says McPherson. "He'll never be able to escape it."

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