The Culture of Boxing: Fourth in a Series

By Ted Sares on December 28, 2011
The Culture of Boxing: Fourth in a Series
What happened to Billy Ray Collins Jr. should forever be viewed as an unforgivable sin

When the bell rang, the kid, a favorite, started fast but then found himself being surprisingly battered by his supposedly light-hitting opponent…

Remembering “Irish” Billy Collins Jr.

“Hey! All the padding is out of the damn gloves…It’s all out…Commissioner…Commissioner! No padding! There’s no damn padding!”—Billy Collins Sr.

Like a lot of tragic stories, this one ended pretty near where it had all begun. The 1972 Cutlass hit a concrete abutment at high speed on March 7, 1984 and ended up in a dried up creek. It happened not far from the home of his parents. This was the rural South where Billy Ray Collins Jr. grew up.

Billy was born in Antioch, Tennessee to be exact, a small town located just south of Nashville. The story goes that his house had plastic coverings for storm windows, but his family was proud, hard-working, and Southern, with documented bloodlines in boxing. The kid’s father, Billy Collins,Sr., had been a solid professional fighter who took great pride when his son took up the sport and became a skilled amateur, showing thoroughbred instincts that could only be traced to his roots. The senior Collins retired with a record of 38-17-1 (25 KOs). He had gone up against such formidable opposition as Curtis Cokes, Jorge Jose Fernandez, “Irish” Bobby Cassidy, Battling Torres, and Duilio Loi.

Trained by his father, the younger Collins ran off 14 straight pro wins, including 11 KOs. When he became one of the first ESPN boxing champions, his momentum began to take on the aura of a “rags to riches” story. I mean, hell, this kid had something special and perhaps was on the verge of being world ranked, maybe even getting in position for a shot at the brass ring. He was a great fan favorite in Atlantic City. He reminded some of a young Sean O’Grady and one could visualize him picking up the mantle from Sean and running with it. Interestingly, in 1982, he beat a young Harold Brazier, 5-1 at the time. Brazier would go on to finish with a career mark of 105-18-1and several of his victories were for secondary titles, thus reflecting the kind of promise Billy possessed.

Then in June 1983 and coming off a solid KO win over tough Frankie Fernandez, he was booked to fight a Bronx resident by the name of Luis Resto at Madison Square Garden.


As an amateur, Resto had considerable natural boxing talent and he won two prestigious New York Golden Gloves titles. He also competed in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials. When he turned pro in 1977 at the age of 22, Louis had proven that he was a tough and able fighter with a potentially big professional future. However he was poorly managed and poorly matched. In 1978, with only seven pro fights under his belt, Resto fought world rated contender Bruce Curry and was halted in two rounds.

Over the next several years, Resto continued to fight difficult opponents, and sometimes he won. On his resume were guys like Curry, Mario Omar Guillotti (53-8-5 coming in), Adolfo Viruet, and Nino Gonzalez. Resto was coming off a win over tough “Slammin’” Sammy Horne in April 1983. His 1979 closet classic win against Pat Hallacy was 10 rounds of pure mayhem and is still discussed among aficionados. He also was trained by the knowledgeable Panama Lewis.

At his peak, Resto was briefly ranked just inside the worldwide top 10. By the time he met Collins, Resto was 20-8-1 and was unranked. However, he was still regarded as a live opponent for almost anyone in the world at welterweight and junior middleweight. The thing was, Luis only had eight KOs in his career and was generally considered a light puncher.

The Fight

It was on the undercard of the Duran-Moore fight in Madison Square Garden (another savage affair in which Duran beat Moore into a bloody mess and in which the referee seemed to suffer from decision paralysis. It would be a big break for Collins insofar as exposure was concerned, but it would be a difficult test. Resto was somewhat of a slickster/journeyman; moreover, he had a strong following in New York City and had gone up against much better competition.

When the bell rang, the kid, a favorite, started fast but then found himself being surprisingly battered by his supposedly light-hitting opponent. All of a sudden, he was in a fight for his life. He soon complained to his corner that the other guy was hitting him with what felt like “bricks.” Though he managed to stay upright and trade punch for punch for over 10 brutal rounds, he took a terrible beating, resulting in severe facial injuries and horrifically swollen eyes. His misshapen face looked like it had gone through a meat grinder. Billy Sr. asked him if they should stop the fight. “No,” said Junior, and the fight went the entire distance. The courage, strength and sheer determination Billy demonstrated will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

When the final bell rang, the local club fighter, Luis Resto, had “beaten” the undefeated welterweight sensation. That he won was not so much a surprise as was the brutally dominant way in which he had done it. Resto had battered Collins’s face into a grotesque mass of purple and swollen bruises eventually resulting in half-blindness due to a torn iris that, as it would turn out, could never be repaired. If Davey Moore’s face would later be turned into a bloody mess, Billy’s was turned into a gory purplish pulp.

After the final bell, Billy Collins Sr., who worked his son’s corner, went over to shake Resto’s right glove, saying: “Good fight.” Grabbing the glove, he was shocked to find that the padding had been removed from Resto’s gloves. He immediately alerted the official.

“Hey! All the padding is out of the damn glove…It’s all out…Commissioner…Commissioner! No padding! There’s no damn padding!”

The fight was later ruled a no contest when it was discovered that Resto’s gloves had been tampered with. The gloves were impounded and were found to be lacking 60 percent of the horsehair padding usually found in gloves, which, in effect, made them have the virtual impact of bare knuckles or lethal weapons.

Later, the perpetrators would pay dearly for their actions. But this story is not about them, nor do they warrant any more attention than is necessary. Suffice it to say that two did prison time and were banned from boxing.

The effect of the illegal mugging would be career-ending and eventually fatal for the up-and-coming young fighter out of Tennessee. Doctors informed him he would eventually lose his sight. He quickly fell into deep depression and began drinking heavily. Just months after this fight, he crashed his car and was killed. He was found to be drunk at the wheel, and many speculated as to whether it was a deliberate act of suicide. But did it really matter? He was dead at 22. To this day, Billy Collins Sr. blames Resto’s trainer for his son’s death. Someone once said boxing has never been overly stringent in its application of professional scruples. Maybe so, but what happened to this kid should forever be viewed as an unforgivable sin.

These days, whenever I watch a young prospect, I can’t help thinking about the fate of a young kid out of the rural South who showed so much promise—a kid who made his family proud, but whose future was taken away in one violent and unfair night in the Garden. He was a kid from a small town in Tennessee who had gone to the big city and met the dark side of boxing.

His name was “Irish” Billy Ray Collins Jr. And if there is a heaven after death, he is there.

The Culture of Boxing: First in a Series
The Culture of Boxing: Second in a Series
The Culture of Boxing: Third in a Series
The Culture of Boxing: Fourth in a Series

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Billy Collins jr. | Luis Resto 1/4

Billy Collins jr. | Luis Resto 2/4

Billy Collins jr. | Luis Resto 3/4

Billy Collins jr. | Luis Resto 4/4

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  1. The Thresher 06:23am, 08/06/2016

    great point

  2. Philip Matsikoudis 10:19pm, 08/05/2016

    The Welshman is right about Dempsey, who I believe is the most over-rated Heavyweight Champion this side of Mike Tyson, who purposely coped the ‘Mannassa Mauler’s Boxing style. I have seen photos and rread many stories of that bout as well as have watched it in its entirety on a number of occasions. I am absolutely convinced that Dempsey fought with loaded gloves to win the Heavyweight Champion of the World and almost killed a man to do it.  I really do not understand how every rating I see of all-time greatest Heavyweight Dempsey is invariably rated higher than Gene Tunney who beat him in 19 of the 20 rounds they boxed, while Tunney won Dempsey’s Title and successfully defended it.  There is no way Dempsey was better than Tunney, who style was a mirror of a young Cassius Clay before Clay was Clay or Ali.

  3. Kenneth Spann 06:12am, 07/03/2013

    I personally knew Billy Collins, having trained together at the Davidson CntybSherriffs Dept boxing gym.. Home of their famed Punching Posse ran by Clint Jackson, Jerome Coffee and Johnny Bumphus.
      Billy was a quite young man. He had manners… He said yes sir, no ma’am and had a quite confidence that was undeniable. When Billy saw I was havintrouble grasping a concept in boxing he took the time to work with me until I had itbdowbbpat. Billy was a great fighter but an even better human being.
    Justice was never served in this case. It only highlighted the corruption of pro boxing and that of the New York State Boxing Commission. Shame on all involved in this case.

  4. Iron Beach 03:55pm, 01/05/2012

    raxman just hit one outta’ the park…..respect.

  5. raxman 03:44pm, 01/05/2012

    loving this series ted - sorry it took me so long to get around to that i’ve missed the thread. i hate panama lewis. i hate him. hate! i can’t feel that way about many people but for him i make an exception. i have never had doubt about the arguello cocaine thing - it was before my time of following the sport of course but having read about collins when he died when i watched the legendary nights hbo story on arguello v pryor i knew it would be true. i know there is money involved and maybe coz i’ve never been a pro boxer i dont get it but who wants to win like that? part of the buzz of boxing is knowing you stood up to another on equal footing and prevailed. i have no problem with the bhop school of rule stretching but can’t stand flat out cheating. and what was done to billy collins jr was a disgrace. am i wrong though ted in thinking that his father didnt help billy jnrs mental state by encouraging him to do nothing - not to fight or even work - so as to get more money from the lawsuit? i don’t want to put dirt on the man but perhaps he had always hoped his son would get the rewards from the sport that had elluded him and when the chance was there to make it from a lawsuit he jumped.

    the great disgrace is that lewis can’t be stopped from training altogther - he just can’t work corners right? which means there will still be fighters who wil pay him to train them.

  6. mikecasey 07:38am, 01/03/2012

    Boy, do I remember this one - vividly so. Thanks for reminding people, Ted

  7. SR.BILL-HARDPORN XXX 08:36pm, 01/01/2012

    Be as it may be or has already been, but Billy Collins was still kinda green when his team tossed him in with Luis Resto at MSG in 1983…. Resto should’ve been able to handle Collins without cheating….

  8. JC45 04:45pm, 01/01/2012

    Thanks for another great piece Ted. Billy Collins story is a terrible one.
    The Welshman is spot on . I’ve often wondered about old-time fighting and cheating. I’d imagine it wouldnt have been difficult to give a fighter some cocaine between rounds. Liston’s people were rumoured to have used the liniment on the gloves trick against Cleveland Williams way back before to the first Clay fight. Loaded gloves, the drugging of opponents, god only knows what went on then. Any sport that involves big betting is always ripe for underhanded activities. Look at horse racing. 
    Cheers All.

  9. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:12am, 12/31/2011

    Wow! I’m gettin’ old. I’m just getting to this fine piece—don’t know how I missed it! I applaud Sares for exposing the brutal reality of the dark side of boxing in his series. This series should assist every fan in keeping himself grounded in what is typically a fans love-hate relationship with this brutal form of legalized assault. Great read and an important piece.

  10. The Welshman 01:15pm, 12/30/2011

    Sadly this sort of skulduggery has been going on since gloves were first worn, almost one hundred years ago Jack Dempsey and his trainer/manager Doc Kearns were vehemently accused of using loaded gloves in the merciless beating of Jess Willard in their world heavyweight title fight at Toledo in 1919, and if this sport of ours survives another 100 years boxing fans of that era will still be talking about such incidents.

  11. CoachSal 01:01pm, 12/29/2011

    Resto should have been thrown in front of a speeding bus along with Lewis.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 08:48am, 12/29/2011

    In the photo that accompanies this soul piercing article the outline of one of the knuckles of Resto’s left fist can clearly be seen on what appear to be eight ounce gloves . Lewis still has his defenders….they are the ones who post their idiotspeak comments on ESB.

  13. the thresher 08:27am, 12/29/2011

    Great to see the Pinoy Pikey on Welcome to another great and knowledgable fan11

  14. The Pinoy Pikey 07:06am, 12/29/2011

    Ted, “Remembering Irish Billy Collins”...Here. Here!  Panama Lewis is a man of low moral character: I hope he finds a way to make amends with all those he has wronged!

  15. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 01:49am, 12/29/2011

    New York in 1983 SHOULD’VE been on top of gloves and hand wraps prior to a fight at MSG…..... That was a lame blunder that is / was inexcusable…. WORD!

  16. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 09:32pm, 12/28/2011

    “Darker” as in a malignant melanoma that should have been excised all those years ago. This cancer should never be permitted to work any corner anywhere in the world. It hurt just to read this article…it wasn’t necessary to view the videos.

  17. the thresher 02:24pm, 12/28/2011

    Great point, John. Never thought of that before. So obvious yet they never seem to do it.

  18. johnwriter60 01:47pm, 12/28/2011

    and this is why the Referee checks each fighter’s mitts at ring center so that all’s truly fair in the ring wars, yes?

  19. pugknows 01:04pm, 12/28/2011

    This is a very powerful piece. Thanks Bull for a reminder of how foul this business can get.

  20. Waldo 12:49pm, 12/28/2011

    Nice article Ted! People are always going to cheat when the financial upside is so high. The tough part is trying to regulate this activity. Margo already tried to cheat and presumably got away with it before the Mosley fight. It seems that less people are trying to cheat with the equipment, looking more to cheat with the body. Drug testing needs to be the next frontier and hopefully VADA can help with that.

  21. TEX HASSLER 11:59am, 12/28/2011

    Looking over the Resto vs Collins fight you can see just how terrible it was for Margarito to fight with loaded gloves. Resto should have been put in jail and so should Margarito and both banned for life from boxing again. I agree with Rich Torsney on this one. You cannot help but know that your gloves are loaded. When your hands are tapped they are right in front of your face at arm’s length.

  22. Iron Beach 11:13am, 12/28/2011

    Last few pieces on this site were about guys that were just outta’ my era, Collins Jr. I remember him on the espn shows and was following him mainly ‘cause of the father son connection. I was intrigued similar to the way I felt about the Mancini’s story. Can Jr. win what eluded Sr? Billy could fight…would he have won a title? IDK…and it doesn’t matter, he damn sure didn’t deserve what that scum…PL, did to him. Great piece, Sir Ted.

  23. Rich Torsney 11:04am, 12/28/2011

    Margarito should never have been allowed to box again after being caught with loaded wraps before his fight with Mosley.  Where is the backbone in the Commissioners who restored his license.  Some times incidents in life have shades of grey.  Loaded wraps are clearly black and white.  Margarito was caught black handed.

  24. the thresher 11:01am, 12/28/2011

    Same to you Jofre

  25. jofre 10:46am, 12/28/2011

    Ted, great article about one of the most dispicable chapters in boxing history. A young man’s life tragically cut short; his family forever shattered; and Panama Lewis still hangs on making a living out of boxing. Thanks for keeping this story alive. Happy New Year!

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