Assault In The Ring debuts tonight at 10 p.m on HBO
By Kirk Lang - Assault In The Ring, a new documentary from HBO Sports dealing with the ill-fated junior middleweight bout between Billy Collins Jr. and Luis Resto, debuts tonight at 10 p.m. The Collins-Resto bout is famous for the tampered gloves Resto used over 10 rounds of action to mark up Collins’ face like it had never been marked up before. Much of the padding had been removed from the gloves in the locker room before the fight and Assault In The Ring sets out to get to the bottom of who did what and who knew what..
Collins, who had been undefeated, lost that June 1983 fight against Resto and would never fight again, partly because Collins’ father sued the New York State Athletic Commission and, according to the documentary, perhaps felt he’d have a stronger case if the Resto bout was his son’s last fight. Less than a year after that career setback against Resto, Collins went out for some drinks and drove off the side of the road. He went into a dried-out creek and died on impact.
Resto is still alive but struggles with personal demons over the fact he was the one wearing the tampered gloves against Collins.
Film-maker Eric Drath, a former boxing agent, believed Resto was an innocent pawn in the Resto-Collins bout. However, when Drath digs up an old transcript of a conversation that took place in the 1980s between Resto and an undercover cop who had been posing as a jogger, he realizes Resto was not so innocent. Halfway through the film, Resto admits he knew more than he was letting on.
Later on in the film, Drath says, “When I first met Luis Resto I believed him when he told me he
was innocent and I wanted to make a film that proved him right. Instead I ended up exposing his guilt.”
Resto claims he saw his trainer, Carlos “Panama” Lewis, take the gloves into the bathroom. When Lewis is confronted with this information at his Miami gym, he asks Resto if he actually saw him take the padding. He also says he was just going to the bathroom “to take a piss.” It becomes a little hard to feel sorry for Resto when you find out he hasn’t been up front with Drath. However, as a lower-tier fighter who wasn’t making a lot of money, and whose trainer sort of served as a father figure, it’s hard to imagine any fighter in his shoes would have had the guts to call over a member of the New York State Athletic Commission to take a look at his gloves that don’t seem exactly right. Resto goes on to say that in addition to horse hair being removed from his gloves, a chemical was put on his hand wraps that basically turned them into a cast. Resto and Lewis ended up doing two-and-a-half years in jail for the parts they played in the Collins-Resto bout.
Twenty-something years later after that fight, Lewis is still banned from working a corner. Resto, who was never allowed to fight again, is living in a windowless basement apartment in the Bronx.
He says he still thinks about that fight, and about Collins, every day. His feelings appear genuine. When he first visits Lewis to try to get some answers, Resto begins crying. Resto even tries to visit Collins’ father in Tennessee but the people that answer the door quickly close it and at one point a child threatens to call the police on Resto. However, Resto is allowed a visit with Collins’ former wife, Andrea Collins-Morse. She, unlike Collins’ father, gives an on-camera interview for the documentary.
“For the longest time, he (Collins) would just sit in the apartment and smoke, and drink, and trash the apartment by himself. He wasn’t Billy anymore,” said Collins-Morse. She added, “It’s like everything was taken that night in the ring.”
Resto would never be the same either.
His sister, Marta, told Drath: “I see in his eyes, I see he’s not the same. He’s so different. He’s not the same. So lonely. He was more friendly and happy [before]. I don’t see him happy no more.”
Resto may have been a silent partner in the tampered gloves incident but at least he appears to have remorse for his role in the beating that Collins took. Lewis on the other hand seems to have no remorse at all and apparently has his own reason for why he’s not working corners nowadays.
“They wanted to nail me to the wall, they wanted to take me out the game about winning too many fights,” he said. For more information, including an alleged discussion between Lewis and a cocaine trafficker that the fight would be tipped in Resto’s favor, make sure to watch Assault In The Ring tonight.
Besides its debut airing at 10 p.m., the documentary will be shown on HBO on Aug. 3 (11 a.m., 11 p.m.), Aug. 6 (12:30 p.m., 8 p.m.), Aug. 9 (10 a.m.), Aug. 12 (5:20 a.m.), Aug. 14 (6:30 p.m.), Aug. 18 (4 p.m., 12:30 a.m.), Aug. 22 (9:30 a.m.) and Aug. 29 (6:30 p.m.). HBO On Demand availability will span Aug. 3 to Aug. 31.