Loaded gloves: the dark story of Luis Resto and his illegal fists

On June 16, 1983 Luis Resto lined up against the undefeated prospect Billy Collins, Jr. at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The fight was the undercard for a bout between Roberto Durán and Davey Moore. What was supposed to be a sideshow to the Durán/Moore encounter, became an assault with a deadly weapon; the end of Billy Collins Jr’s career, and the start of a prison sentence for the disgraced Resto. 

Luis Resto was born in Juncos, Puerto Rico, and moved to the Bronx when he was nine years old. His first taste of boxing was pugilistic to say the least; late in his eighth grade year, he elbowed his math teacher in the face, and spent six months in a rehabilitation center for the mentally disturbed. Fortunately for Luis, an uncle decided to sign him up for boxing lessons in a Bronx gym, and the rest is history.

Luis Resto punches Billy Connor Jnr,. Source : All Things Crime
Luis Resto punches Billy Collins Jnr,. Source : All Things Crime

Resto matured into a competent amateur, winning both the 1975 and 1976 147 lb Golden Gloves Open Championships. He turned pro in 1977 and proceeded on the journeyman path, managing a fairly unremarkable 20-8-1 record after six years on the road.

His light-punching style, coupled with the undefeated credentials of his opponent Billy Collins’ Jnr., promised to make this a one-side, uneventful evening. 10 rounds later and the fight is over. Collins’ eyes are swollen shut; Resto has tampered with his gloves. The alarm was raised by Collins’ father and trainer, Billy, Sr., who shook Resto’s hand. Screaming that he thought the gloves had no padding, Collins, Sr. demanded that the New York State Athletic Commission impound the gloves. An investigation discovered that an ounce of padding had been removed from each glove, the barroom equivalent of using a knuckleduster. To think Collins’ was subjected to 10 rounds of this is bad enough–it would later emerge that Resto’s wraps had been hardened in plaster of Paris.

An image of a battered Billy Collins, alongside Luis Resto.
A macabre image of a battered Billy Collins, alongside Luis Resto. Source : Jeff Pearlman

After a month’s investigation, the New York State Boxing Commission determined that Resto’s trainer, Panama Lewis, had removed the padding from Resto’s gloves. The commission suspended Resto’s boxing license for at least a year, stating that Resto should have known the gloves were illegal. Collins, who suffered a torn iris and permanently blurred vision, would never fight again. His career was over and he fell into a downward spiral. He drove his car into a culvert while intoxicated and died a few months after the fight–his father would later speculate that this was a suicide.

Resto's trainer, Panama Lewis, pictured in 1982. Source : Alcherton
Resto’s trainer, Panama Lewis, pictured in 1982. Source : Alcherton

In 1986, Lewis and Resto were both put on trial and found guilty of assault, criminal possession of a weapon (Resto’s hands) and conspiracy. Prosecutors argued that Resto must have known his gloves were illegal, and therefore the bout amounted to an illegal assault. Prosecutors also argued that the plot was centred on a large amount of money bet on Resto by a third party, who had met with Lewis prior to the fight.

‘It was like a bare knuckle fight,”

Eric Drath, Director of “Cornered.”

Resto served two and a half years in prison, and stood by his innocence for almost a quarter-century. However, in 2007, Resto admitted to Collins’ widow, Andrea Collins-Nile, that he had known about the padding, as well as confessing to the use of plaster on his wraps.  Resto said he didn’t protest at the time even though he knew it was wrong. “At the time, I was young,” he said. “I went along.” 

Robert Mladnich last reported on Resto’s whereabouts in 2008. He was living in an apartment near the gym where he once trained. Billy Collins Jr. died before his 23rd birthday. No doubt a large part of Resto died that evening, but his decision to hide behind a vale of naivety will condemn him till the end; he was 28 when this cowardly act took place.



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