Aaron Snowell, best known as the former trainer of Mike Tyson, has written on social media how Carlos “Panama” Lewis has died. I read the Facebook message Mr. Snowell had posted about the death, at age 74, of the controversial boxing trainer who was best known for working with the great Aaron Pryor. I then messaged Snowell to ask if Lewis had indeed died: “Yes,” he kindly took the time to shoot back.
At the time of writing, there is nothing on any boxing websites about the passing of Lewis, with only Snowell’s social media piece currently letting fans know the news. And I’m far from sure how fans will take the news of the passing of “Panama” Lewis once they do find out. To say Panama was a controversial figure is indeed putting it mildly.
Did I say Panama was best known for working with Pryor? Maybe. But chances are plenty of fans instantly think of the tragic and brutal Billy Collins Jr Vs. Luis Resto fight when they hear Panama’s name. The 1983 fight saw Resto, the padding removed from his gloves, give the promisingly talented Collins Jr a fearful beating. In July of that year, following an investigation into what happened that night in the ring (and if you haven’t already done so, check out the superb “Assault In The Ring” documentary that focuses on the Collins-Resto fight and it’s astonishing aftermath), Panama’s boxing license was revoked; his reputation in tatters.
Sadly, Collins Jr was dead the following year, his career over, his mental state seriously affected due to the brutal fight. Panama always maintained his innocence, stating that he never took the padding out of his fighter’s gloves. Resto says differently. Before that event, in the first epic fight between Pryor and Alexis Arguello in 1982, the story of the infamous “black bottle” generated huge headlines and also controversy.
Before the 14th round of the sensational fight, Panama was heard to say in the corner, “Not that (water) bottle, the one I mixed.” Then, in the 14th round, a pumped-up Pryor took out Arguello. To this day, no-one knows what was in the bottle. Still, everyone knows you do not “mix” water.
Panama got away with that one if he did actually do anything wrong. Yet his reputation was already suffering. The Collins-Resto fight completely tarnished Panama’s rep.
Panama would pop up now and again at a big fight over the years, but he was never again allowed to work a fighter’s corner. His career basically ended in June of 1983. Once one of the finest, most highly regarded trainers in boxing, Panama Lewis will forever be remembered for less than good things.
Carlos “Panama” Lewis – 1945 to 2020.