On June 16, 1983, I sat in front of my television to watch the 154 lb. world championship fight between titleholder Davey Moore and challenger Roberto Duran. Moore was heavily favored against the aging “Manos de Piedra,” because of his youth, size and speed….
But Duran shocked the boxing world by not only winning, but delivering such a savage beating that the fight was stopped in the eighth round. As the Madison Square Garden crowd went crazy, Moore was helped out of the ring and was never the same, going 6-5 over the next five years before tragically passing away while opening his garage door….
For some reason, after Moore left his car to open the garage, the car lurched backward, pinned him against the door and killed him….
It was a sad end for a former world champion, but not the most controversial or tragic ending on that June night 26 years ago….
On the undercard was an intriguing middleweight matchup between 21-year-old, undefeated Irish Billy Collins and tough New York journeyman Luis Resto….
With every seat in MSG filled, Resto delivered a savage beating to Collins, swelling up his face and winning a unanimous decision. I can still remember Collins’ face turning into a grotesque mask as the beating went on round after round….
After the fight, Collins father, also his trainer, shook hands with Resto and noticed there was no padding in his gloves. He began screaming at the referee and New York State Athletic officials and soon the gloves were confiscated….
A few weeks later, it was ruled that Resto’s trainer, Panama Lewis, had removed the padding from the gloves, thus making Resto’s punches much harder….
Both Lewis and Resto were banned for life and both of them served two year prison sentences for their roles in the crime….
As for Collins, the beating was so severe that he never fought again….
Less than a year later, a drunken, depressed Collins drove off the road, down a cliff and died at the scene of the crash. It was determined to be an accident, but many who knew him insist it was suicide….
The reason I bring this up is because of a brilliant new documentary on HBO entitled “Assault in the Ring,” which not only chronicles the events of that night, but tells about Resto’s current status and how the fight and ensuinig suspension changed his life….
Now 52, Resto served his two years in prison, then lived for 10 years in a dank, dark, cold basement of a Bronx boxing gym. Over the years he has denied any knowledge or involvement in the tragedy, but for the first time Resto comes clean in the HBO special….
He goes to visit Panama Lewis in Florida after not seeing him for over 20 years and the tension and old wounds are obvious. As expected Lewis denies everything and puts on a great show huging Resto and calling him “my son.”….
Resto also attempts to visit Billy Collins, Sr, but gets the door slammed in his face. But while in Tennessee, he visits Collins widow and former mother-in-law, and both of them embrace and console Resto. It was such a moving and heartfelt scene, made all the better because it was real and unscripted….
He also visits the grave of Billy Collins and with tears in his eyes apologizes and admits what he did….
Resto also rebuilds his relationship with his two sons, now living in Virginia with his ex-wife and estranged from him for years….
Yes, Resto saw Lewis go into the bathroom with his gloves that night and knew something was wrong with the gloves; and for that he deserved his suspension and subsequent tough times….
But watching “Assault in the Ring,” you can’t help but feel for him. He seems to show genuine remorse and probably was a fighter trying to make a buck and listened to Lewis, his father figure….
The guy you really have contempt for is Lewis, who also came under suspicion while working the corner of Aaron Pryor in his 1982 knockout win over Alexis Arguello. In that fight, a cornerman handed a bottle to Lewis and he said to him, “No, not that one. Give me the bottle I mixed.”….
Nothing was proven that night, but Arguello was brutally knocked out and never the same….
In “Assault in the Ring,” Resto also makes some other accusations. He claims that not only was the padding removed from his gloves, but Panama also mixed a special pill into his water “the same stuff they use for asthma inhalers” and also put plaster on his hand wraps….
Lewis, of course, denies all this, but Resto comes across as sincere and Panama comes off as a thief, con man and cheater….
I’ve probably said too much and hopefully didn’t spoil the documentary for those of you who haven’t seen it; but this film is very well done and a must see for boxing fans….
Hell, it’s a must see for anyone….
“Assault in the Ring” debuted this past weekend and is running all week, so do yourself a favor and select it on your DVR or Tivo….
You won’t be sorry, because this is a classic….