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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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Luis never went back to school. He worked as a grocery bagger for a couple of months, until an uncle signed him up for boxing lessons at a Bronx gym. "They never really said I was good," Luis says. "They said I was tough." He was—tough enough to win three New York Golden Gloves titles. Never an especially hard puncher, he got by with speed and savvy and a sturdy chin.

"If you watch his fights, you see how smart he was," says Lou (Honey Boy) Del Valle, a light heavyweight who trains at the Morris Park Boxing Gym. "Even now he's got the tools—slippin', movin'." Still, Resto was never more than a club fighter who could take a lot of punches. The Collins bout, at $10,000, was easily his biggest payday. It was arranged "to showcase the kid," says Teddy Brenner, the fight's promoter. "The kid" was Collins.

Resto, then 27, lived in a small Bronx apartment with his wife and two children. He was ranked 10th in the world, but his name meant little outside New York. No matter. He had his future planned, and it was bright. The first step was to win on Saturday night at the Garden.

Panama Lewis has a lot of things going for him. He has plenty of friends, plenty of money and plenty of know-how. He was tutored by the legendary trainer Chickie Ferrara. He is one of the hardest workers in boxing. His ability to network is right up there with Don King's. Lewis was the cornerman in Durán's historic 1980 upset of Leonard. Tyson has said Lewis is the best trainer around.

That's one side of the story. The other began to come to light in November 1982 as Lewis worked Aaron Pryor's corner in Pryor's junior welterweight championship bout with Alexis Arguello. Late in that fight, when Pryor was well behind, HBO, which was broadcasting the event, miked his corner. An assistant held up a plastic water bottle for Pryor, and Lewis was overheard screaming the now infamous order, "Not that one, the special bottle I mixed." Pryor rallied to take the title with a 14th-round knockout, and rumors from Arguello's camp that Pryor had been given stimulants during the fight spread wildly. Lewis said the bottle held only Perrier and tap water. The late Artie Curley, who also worked Pryor's corner, said the bottle contained peppermint schnapps. The bottle was never retrieved.

Shortly after the Resto-Collins bout, Arguello's manager, Bill Miller, said his fighter had mentioned after his bout with Pryor that Pryor's gloves had felt unusually hard. Randy Gordon says Arguello told him the same thing. "Everyone said Alexis was just whining, but then this happens to Billy Collins," says Gordon. "After that fight Alexis called me up, and he kept going, 'Remember what happened to me? Remember? It's the same thing.' "

In 1983 Lewis was struggling to move past the water-bottle incident, which had not led to any formal punishment but had sullied his reputation. Saturday night at the Garden would be a step in the right direction. His night.

On certain memorable occasions-Willis Reed limping onto the court for Game 7, Wayne Gretzky's debut as a Ranger—Madison Square Garden truly has been the world's greatest arena. On June 16, 1983, the juice was flowing. A crowd of 20,061, the largest Garden turnout in 10 years, was present to watch Moore defend his junior middleweight crown against Durán. Resto-Collins was of secondary interest. Were Collins to win, his next opponent would likely be the Moore-Durán victor. Resto's future was less clear.

Roughly 30 minutes before the fight, Pasquale Giovanelli and Richard Hering, the inspectors provided by Top Rank Boxing, the bout's promoters, watched as Collins had tape wrapped around his hands and his gloves tied on. After finishing in Collins's dressing room, the inspectors went to Resto's. In that room, which was filled with fighters and well-wishers, Lewis barked at Giovanelli and Hering, demanding more time to prepare his fighter. "I get this kind of thing all the time from trainers," Giovanelli said last September, two months before he died. "It's never a big deal." He and Hering saw Resto's hands being taped but then, acceding to Lewis's request, left the room for 10 to 15 minutes. By the time they returned, the fighter had his gloves on.

"A real inspector," says Gordon, "makes Resto take the gloves off and checks them." Giovanelli and Hering had seen the gloves before leaving the dressing room the first time but did not witness them being put on Resto's hands. "Any alteration would have to have been made between the time we left and the time we came back," says Hering, 48, who was working his first professional fight that night. "But because the gloves were new, the outsides would have stayed taut even with an incision."

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