Luis Resto vs Billy Collins Jr. (1983) - A Retrospective Ring Report
11.04.08 - by Pavel Yakovlev: Twenty-five years ago Luis Resto and Billy Collins, Jr. fought a ten round no-decision at Madison Square Garden in a bout that proved to be one of the darkest and most notorious events in boxing history. That night, of course, Collins suffered heinous facial injuries because the padding in Resto’s gloves had been surreptitiously removed before the fight.
The match ended the careers of both fighters. Resto and his trainer Panama Lewis were subsequently convicted on criminal charges of assault, conspiracy, and criminal possession of a deadly weapon (bare knuckles). Both were jailed and banned from boxing for life. Collins suffered even worse, as he was forced to retire at age 21 because his iris had been irreparably damaged by blows from Resto’s loaded gloves. His career suddenly over, Collins sank into deep depression and alcoholic despair, and he was killed nine months later when his speeding car smashed into an embankment. Many who knew Collins believe the accident was in fact a suicide..
Last week a new and even more controversial chapter to this 1983 bout opened with the release of Eric Drath’s documentary “Cornered.” In this film Resto makes the shocking disclosure that Lewis soaked his hand wraps in plaster prior to pulling the padding from his boxing gloves. This latest information and the release of Drath’s documentary will return the Collins-Resto saga to the forefront of public and media discussion for the first time in years.
That Resto and Lewis committed a terrible crime is well known and needs no further elaboration or critical discussion here. What is less known among today’s boxing fans and the general public, however, is who exactly Luis Resto and Billy Collins, Jr. were as fighters, and how exactly did their fight unfold in the ring.
In this article, The Eastside does a retrospective review of Collins and Resto and gives a blow-by-blow report of their June 16th 1983 bout.
BILLY COLLINS, JR: RISING STAR FROM TENNESSEE
In 1983, 21-year-old Billy Collins, Jr. was considered to be a hot up-and-coming prospect and a potential future star in professional boxing. The Antioch, Tennessee fighter had turned professional in 1981 after running up an amateur record of 101-9. Sixteen months later, Collins’s pro record was 14-0-0, with 11 knockouts.
Boxing was Billy Jr.'s family legacy. His father and manager, Billy Collins Sr., was a well-known fighter during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s who won 38 of 56 professional fights. Collins Sr. fought throughout the United States, Europe, South America and South Africa and he faced some of leading boxers of his day, including Curtis Cokes, Virgil Akins, and Duilio Loi.
In addition to his legacy and considerable boxing talent, Billy Collins Jr. was telegenic. Standing 5’11 ½” and weighing around 153 lbs., the baby faced but fierce looking Collins projected a gritty, charismatic image on the television screen. Going into the Resto fight, Collins was appearing regularly on ESPN’s boxing programs and his promising career had attracted the support of Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing promotional company.
Collins’s marketability was boosted by his exciting, scrapping fighting style, which was that of a stand-up boxer-puncher who eschewed defense. In the ring he pumped his left jab aggressively, always following up with crisp right crosses and snapping left hooks. Collins was adept both a long range fighting and at slugging it out on the inside. Although he could have won his bouts by boxing – using his height and 73 ½” reach to jab and move – Collins Jr. was known for his hot-blooded approach to fighting and rarely shied away from trading punches with his opponents.
Going into the Resto match, Collins’s most important victory was a ten round decision over unranked Oklahoman Dennis Horne (25-5 at the time) in January, 1983. Collins followed-up on that win with a first round kayo over Steve Johnson and a sixth round stoppage over Fernando Fernandez.
By June, 1983, Collins’s management was seeking to deepen his ring experience by exposing him to tougher, more challenging foes. For the still developing Collins, ideal opponents were fighters tough enough and experienced enough to challenge him, but not so strong or hard-hitting as to pose too much of a threat.
Luis Resto of The Bronx was known to be a tough, highly seasoned fighter with a light punch. Hence he was selected as Collins’s next stepping stone.
LUIS RESTO: THE OPPONENT FROM THE BRONX
Like Collins, Resto was known for trading punches with his opponents in the ring. Lacking the power to be a true knockout artist, the Puerto Rican born Resto sought to win his bouts by forcing his foes into brawls so he could wear them down with endless barrages of blows. Resto was a durable fighter and he was willing to absorb punishment in order to score with punches of his own.
As an amateur Resto evinced considerable natural boxing talent and he won two prestigious New York Golden Gloves titles. Resto also competed in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. When he turned pro in 1977 at the age of 22, Resto had proven that he was a tough and able fighter with a potentially big professional future.
However Resto was not protected as a professional. From the very beginning of his career, he was matched against dangerous, more experienced fighters. Resto was even brought oversees to fight as the “opponent” for foreign boxing stars.
In early 1978, with only seven pro fights under his belt, Resto was thrown in the ring with world rated contender Bruce Curry and he was stopped in two rounds. It is almost unheard of in pro boxing that a seven-fight novice would be matched against an opponent as dangerous as Curry.
Things did not get easier for Resto after losing to Curry. In his next fight, Resto traveled to Italy and lost a decision to another world rated fighter, Argentina’s Mario Omar Guilloti. Guilloti had a record of 53-8-5 to Resto’s eight fights. Several months later, Resto took a big chance and traveled to Caracas to meet undefeated Venezuelan Luis Primera. Resto lost that bout as well.
Over the next several years, Resto continued to fight difficult opponents, and sometimes he won. In 1979 he decisioned Pat Hallacy, who was 20-1 going into the bout. In 1980 he fought a draw with the exceptionally tough and experienced Adolfo Viruet. Several months later, Resto lost via ninth round stoppage to highly touted, up-and-coming prospect Nino Gonzalez, who was 20-1 at the time. In 1981 Resto lost a 10 round decision to Manuel Jimenez (20-1) in Puerto Rico, but he rebounded later that year with a seventh round kayo over tough Domingo Ayala (14-3-1). In 1983, immediately before fighting Collins, Resto’s career took an upward turn when he outpointed Sammy Horne (22-3) over 12 rounds in Atlantic City.
At his peak, Resto was briefly ranked just inside the worldwide top 10. By the time he met Collins, Resto was unranked but still regarded as a live opponent for almost anyone in the world at welterweight and junior middleweight.
Going into the Collins match in June, 1983, Resto had a career professional record of 20-8-2, with 8 knockouts. One gets the impression that Resto’s record would have been much better is he had only been the beneficiary of careful management.
THE FIGHT: A TORRID BRAWL AND AN APPARENT UPSET
Collins and Resto each weighed 156 lbs. for their match, which was an action packed brawl for every moment of the entire ten rounds. Rarely did the two fighters clinch. It was one of the best matches this writer has ever seen, and although Collins took a beating, at no point did he look discouraged and he always tenaciously returned fire.
The bout was fought on nearly even terms for the first two rounds, with Collins’s superior combination punching winning the first and Resto’s harder punching giving him a slight edge in the second. In the third, however, Resto took control of the match by jolting Collins’s repeatedly with hurtful, snapping punches from both hands.
For the rest of the fight, the chief difference between the fighters was that Resto’s punches could do more damage to Collins than vice verse. It looked like a simple case of Collins lacking the strength to outpunch his seemingly more powerful foe. Regardless of how severely he was being punished, however, Collins kept himself in the fight by always fighting back.
The damaging impact of Resto’s punches on Collins’s face became evident early as well. By the end of the second, Collins had a welt under his right eye; by the end of the third, there was a lump on his left eyebrow. After four rounds, Collins had massive swellings and bruises above and below both eyes.
Constantly in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds Collins was hurt and shaken by Resto’s punches. It appeared the match might by over in the seventh, as Collins was now bleeding badly from a cut under his left eye and his punches seemed to have lost all their steam. Still, Collins was game.
Between the seventh and eighth, referee Tony Perez observed Collins’s facial injuries, but he took no action. Perez also visited Collins’s corner after the eighth, but again he took no action even though Collins’s facial injuries were getting worse.
Resto’s dominance continued in the final three rounds, although by this time he had fatigued himself, and the brave Collins fought back with such tenacity that the match went to the final bell. By the end of the bout, both of Collins’s eyes were surrounded by huge, red swollen welts.
The decision was unanimous in favor of Resto, but it was Collins’s astounding courage that won the hearts of the crowd. As Collins left the ring, he was surrounded by throngs of Puerto Rican fans shouting “Toro! Toro! Toro!” as a tribute to his tenacity and staying power.
Minutes after the fight, of course, Collins, Sr. squeezed Resto’s gloves in a gesture of congratulations and discovered that the gloves were deprived of padding. The rest of the story is history.
The following is a description of the highlights of each round as observed on film by The Eastside.
Both fighters start fast and aggressively, trading left jabs from the outside and sometimes moving inside to exchange fast, short body punches. Collins is getting the better of the action, scoring more consistently with his jab. Both boxers utilize the stand-up puncher’s style and the action is intense. Resto misses with a huge, sweeping right to the head. Collins lands a slapping right hand-left hook combination to the head, and Resto misses with a huge, wide left uppercut thrown from the outside. Collins scores with more jabs, and then he scores with a solid right to the head. Resto suddenly turns up the pressure, energetically attacking Collins and landing a left jab, a right cross, a left hook then another right cross, all to the head. Collins returns fire and scores with a right to the head. The fighters fight on the inside and Collins scores with a good right uppercut near the end of the round.
Resto comes out of his corner very aggressively, attacking with a series of strong, fast left jabs and left hooks to the head. Collins takes the punches well and returns fire of his own. Both boxers seems to be putting more power in their punches this round, with Resto getting the better of the action because he is landing more frequently with his left jab. Collins lands a sharp right hand and Resto scores in return with a solid left jab. Collins lands with a strong right to the head; the punch lands with a loud snapping sound and it is the best punch of the fight so far. Resto lands several jabs, and Collins scores with a sharp left hook that snaps Resto’s head back. Both fighters are swinging wide, hard punches, most of which miss. The action is fast and intense. Resto lands a strong right to the body. Resto scores with a strong right to the head and Collins scores in return with a right hand of his own. Collins fires several fast, hard jabs and right hands, but Resto ducks the shots and lands a solid right hand and left hook combination to the head.
Resto begins the round very aggressively again, flurrying with a series of fast, hard left jabs and left hooks. Collins stands his ground and they begin exchanging jabs and right hands. Resto seems to be stepping up the pressure, and he is putting more power into his punches. Collins lands a solid right to the head, and they trade jabs from long range. Resto seems to be the more aggressive fighter, as he is moving forward and Collins is stepping back in order to maintain his punching range. Both fighters move inside and trade punches, and Resto rocks Collins with a strong left hook and a follow-up right hand to the head. Resto lands another solid right to the head. Both fighters trade punches and Resto scores with another strong right hand. Resto definitely seems to be the physically stronger fighter at this point. The fighters fire jabs and crosses at each other from long range, with most shots missing their mark. The action is fast and crisp. Late in the round Resto stuns Collins with a hard left hook to the head. Collins returns fire, but he is staggered slightly by a strong right hand from Resto. As the bell sounds Collins lands a sharp left hook and right cross to the head.
Resto aggressively attacks Collins body, swinging wide, hard hooks from both hands. The fighters trade jabs, rights, and left hooks at a fast, crisp pace from long range. Occasionally they move inside and exchange hooks and uppercuts. Overall Resto seems to be the stronger, more assertive fighter. Collins lands a sharp left jab, right cross and left hook combination to the head. Collins is strong, fast and energetic, but the stronger Resto is backing him up. They continue trading jabs from long range, and suddenly Resto stuns Collins with a strong right hand to the head. During the infighting later in the round, Collins lands a sharp left hook to the head, but Resto comes back with another strong right to the head with rocks Collins. Collins now has a heavy lump over his right eye.
Both fighters resume the pattern of exchanging jabs, rights and left hooks in the center ring. The action is intense, and both are firing crisp, snapping punches. Resto is clearly the stronger fighter however and he never takes a backward step. Occasionally Resto loads up on wild, strong right hands and left hooks thrown from long range. Collins lands a solid right to the head but the punch does not fend Resto off. Resto rocks Collins with a strong, clubbing right hand to the head. They move inside and Resto forces Collins to the ropes with a series of strong left hooks to the head and body, some of which are blocked by Collins. Resto lands a strong right to the side of Collins’s body on the inside. Collins backs away as he fires left jabs, and Resto rocks him with another strong left hook and right hand to the head. Resto scores with another strong left hook and now Collins looks hurt. Collins pulls away as Resto presses his attack, and they trade punches on the inside. Collins flurries with a series of sharp lefts and rights, and a solid right cross snaps Resto’s head back. Resto continues to force the action, and rocks Collins with strong clubbing punches from both hands in the closing moments of the round. Collins takes the punches well, but his physical strength now draining noticeably. By the end of this round there is serious swelling and bruising around both of Collins’s eyes.
Both fighters open the round by moving inside and trading strong lefts and rights to the body. Neither boxer backs away and the pace of the fighting is intense. Resto continues to use his superior strength to back Collins up. Resto hurts Collins with a strong right and left to the body followed by a strong left hook to the head. Collins is in trouble but he fights back tenaciously. Collins’s punches seem to have lost their strength at this point. Resto is confident and aggressive and he walks Collins down, swinging strong blows from both hands. Collins continues to back away as he jabs and fires occasional right hands and left hooks, but his legs seem slightly wobbly. Resto now seems to sense the potential for a kayo win, and he is loading up on all of his punches. The referee warns Resto for a low blow (apparently unintentional), and the fighters resume their jabbing pattern from long range. Resto continues to force his way inside against Collins, who is obviously tired but incredibly game. Resto stuns Collins with a big left hook and right hand to the head late in the round, but Collins never stops fighting back. The swelling and bruising above and below Collins’s eyes gets worse in this round.
The fighters begin the round by firing jabs and right crosses from center ring. Both boxers are showing signs of fatigue now, but Resto is still clearly stronger, and his punches seem to carry much snapping force. They move inside and Resto lands two strong rights to the head. Resto snaps Collins’s head back with a big right uppercut and Collins pulls away. Collins is now cut badly under his left eye and his legs look unsteady as Resto bulls him into the ropes, firing heavy left hooks and right hands to the head and body. Collins seems hurt but his resistance is tenacious, and he defends himself by firing a series of lefts and rights that force Resto to duck. Collins circles away from the ropes and Resto pursues him, scoring with a pair of strong hooks to the head. Collins throws jabs, left hooks and right crosses as he fights a defensive battle, but Resto’s attack is relentless. Resto stuns Collins again with a big left hook and right hand at the end of the round. The swelling and bruising around Collins’s eyes is now so severe that referee Tony Perez visits his corner at the end of this round.
Resto and Collins stand toe-to-toe in the center ring and trade punches, with Resto landing the stronger blows. Both seem heavily fatigued now, Collins more so than Resto. Resto lands a right uppercut. Collins scores with a right to the head, but there is no steam left in Collins’s punches. Resto scores with a solid right cross to the head that stuns Collins. Collins scores with a left hook to the head. They continue to battle at close quarters, and Resto drives a strong right to Collins’s midsection. Resto scores with a solid left hook to the head. Resto rocks Collins with a left hook, right cross, left hook combination to the head. Collins returns fire with a left hook and left jab combination to the head. Again, the referee observes Collins between rounds as his facial swelling is getting more severe.
Both fighters resume trading punches at close quarters, with each showing fatigue. Resto and Collins are both dropping their hands now. Resto lands a left hook to the head, and then follows up with a solid left jab. Resto has the advantage in the close-quarters trading because his punches are still stronger than Collins’s. Resto lands two solid left hooks to the head. Collins dances away from Resto then storms back at him with two jabs and a right cross to the head. They exchange blows at close quarters, and Collins scores with a right to the body. Resto scores with a strong left hook and right cross to the head, and Collins stands his ground and fights back with a left hook to the head and a right to the body. This is a very close round, with Resto winning it by a shade due to his harder punching and forward movement. Collins's face looks even more severely bruised and swollen by the end of the round, but his mental tenacity is profound and he shows no outward signs of being discouraged.
Collins and Resto exchange punches toe-to-toe in the center ring. Both fighters are very fatigued and the bout is now a free-swinging affair. Resto scores with several hard left hooks and right hands to the head that rock Collins and drive him backwards. Resto scores with a solid left jab. Collins fights back tenaciously and lands a solid right hand to the body. Resto scores a left hook to the head. Resto lands a strong right hand, left hook, right hand combination to the head and Collins looks hurt. Collins fights back and lands two solid left jabs. Resto lands a solid right to the head. Both fighters are swinging freely now. Resto wobbles Collins with a strong left hook to the head. Resto opens up with both hands and he rocks Collins with a right to the head. Resto continues his assault with a right cross and left hook to the head and Collins is in trouble. Collins fights back tenaciously however, and in the 15 seconds of the bout the two boxers are trading on even terms.
Article posted on 11.04.2008
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