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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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"I really believe the swollen eyes are starting to bother Collins," Leonard said on the broadcast. "They look very tender."

Resto never let up, sending Collins reeling, deepening the gash on his face but not knocking him down. "If Resto knew the gloves were messed with," says Billy, "then the way he kept attacking Ray was the worst sin anyone could commit."

At one point in Round 8, Resto caught Collins flush on the jaw, twisting his head like a soda cap. The crowd cheered loudly for the hometown boy. Each shot by Resto was greeted with a roar. The proud Collins kept coming, landing punches but not hurting Resto. Neither boxer said a word to the other. There were no smirks or grins—just more punches. "I'm sure Collins's corner thinks he has a chance," said Leonard in the eighth, "but you have to be realistic."

In the final round, a right sent Collins wobbling three steps back. "You sure hope Billy Collins can finish this fight," said Ryan.

Watching a tape of the bout is a painful exercise. Each of Resto's punches landed like a brick against Collins's skull. Collins fought with astonishing bravery. "Ten rounds," says his father, crying. "Ten rounds against a man with no padding. How much courage is that? How much?"

In the 10th Resto almost knocked Collins out. But not quite. The kid from Tennessee crouched and wobbled but didn't go down.

Immediately after the fight, when Billy Collins grabbed Resto's gloves and accused him of cheating, there was a melee between the two fighters' camps. Later that night the New York State Athletic Commission confiscated the gloves. In addition, Paul Ruiz, the trainer of another boxer who fought at the Garden that night, reported seeing "a strawlike material," similar to the horsehair lining in most boxing gloves, on the floor near a washbasin in Resto's locker room.

Meanwhile, Ray Collins, eyes sealed shut, face seven shades of purple, left the ring to chants of Toro! Toro! from Spanish-speaking fans and returned to his room at the Statler Hilton. His cornermen tried to keep him awake. "They were afraid he might die if he fell asleep," says Billy. The fighter called his pregnant wife. "He told me he was beaten real badly—that his eyes were shut," Andrea recalls. "He said he didn't want to die, but he was afraid. He was really afraid."

The next morning a photographer from Ring snapped Ray's picture. The shot of the young man's swollen face is a haunting portrait of brutality. It is also compelling evidence that Resto's gloves were altered. How could a light puncher wearing normal gloves have done that?

After the fight John Squeri, the state athletic commission's chief inspector, took the gloves from Resto's locker room, put them in a cardboard box and handed them to Jack Prenderville, the state boxing commissioner. According to a 1985 article in Inside Sports, Prenderville then handed the gloves to Jack Graham, another official of the athletic commission, who inexplicably left them in the trunk of his car. The next day Graham turned the gloves over to their manufacturer, Everlast, for inspection. ("To Everlast!" says McPherson, Botha's manager, who, like Lewis's other defenders, believes the gloves were altered after the bout. "Do you think the company that makes the gloves is going to admit the product is flawed? Hell, no. It wanted a scapegoat, and his name was Panama Lewis.")

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