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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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Said Giovanelli, "I did my job."

That depends on your interpretation of Rule 209.4 in the New York State Athletic Commission's rule book, which states that "[under] no conditions are gloves to be placed on the hands of the contestant until the approval of the commission is stamped on the bandages by its representative."

To Billy Ray Collins Sr., that means a commission representative should have been there at all times during the taping and gloving. But the rule requires only that the inspector approve the bandages before the gloves go on. The one thing that is not in dispute is that Collins took one of the worst beatings in boxing history.

When the two fighters met at center ring, both stared at the floor, impatiently bobbing, taking instructions from referee Tony Perez. "There was nothing memorable about it," Perez recalls. "Two boxers ready to fight. Same as usual."

After the bell rang for Round 1, the boxers exchanged a few introductory jabs and stepped into a fight that those watching would never forget. In the first 20 seconds Collins landed a right-left combination to Resto's head, then took a solid right hook to the jaw. Resto and Collins never stepped far apart. "These two get insulted if you miss them with a punch," CBS's Gil Clancy said early on. "Resto throws a lot of punches, but a lot of his punches are with an open glove. But Collins, when he hits you, you know you're hit."

Maybe so. But while Collins won the first round by connecting with more shots, he was the one backing up. "Ray," recalls his father, "never backed up before."

Not 20 seconds into the second round, a pinkish circle showed up under Collins's left eye. With each punch from Resto, the circle became darker, and by round's end it was broad and purple. The fighters landed a roughly equal number of blows in the round. Collins, never a defensive master, took shot after shot to the chin. So did Resto, but.... "The thing I remember," says Tim Ryan, who was in the booth with Clancy and Sugar Ray Leonard, "is that Resto didn't hit that hard, but he was causing a lot of damage. It seemed strange."

The third round was much like the second, except that Resto was the more aggressive fighter. Collins was landing punches, but they were late and ineffective. Resto kept firing away, driving Collins back on his heels. With seven seconds remaining, Resto slung a series of right hooks that sent Collins into a crouch. Resto followed with a hard left, then a right. The bell rang, and Resto hammered a late right to Collins's head. Collins answered with two shots at Resto, and the two bumped chests. Lewis, incensed, raced out and screamed at Collins.

Upon returning to his corner, Collins told his father that Resto's gloves felt strange. "I didn't even think about it," says Billy. "Who'd ever heard of taking the padding out? I told him to go back out and fight like a man."

He did, but the next four rounds were all Resto. Collins put up a fight, to no effect. The skin below both his eyes turned purple, and he backed up more and more. In the middle of Round 7 the cut under his left eye began to leak. "One fight like this," said Clancy, "can ruin a young kid like Billy Collins." With 56 seconds left in the round, Collins's legs buckled, and Resto pushed him toward a corner, where he delivered a slew of unanswered hooks and jabs.

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