It was one of the most heinous crimes boxing has known, and after a century of lies, deception and skulduggery that is some claim to infamy.
It was 37 years ago this week when Luis Resto battered Billy Collins.
Collins was 14-0, teeming with hope, ambition and expectation.
After 10 rounds he had been battered to a virtual standstill and lost a decision.
As Billy’s father, Billy Sr, went to congratulate Resto he touched the Puerto Rican’s gloves and unwittingly uncovered foul play.
Resto’s trainer Panama Lewis had removed around an ounce of padding from his fighter’s gloves and he’d hidden plaster in Luis’s wraps. Resto had been hitting poor Billy with rocks.
It wasn’t a fair fight.
Collins never recovered. He’d suffered a tear in his eye which meant he suffered with blurred vision and couldn’t box again. His hopes and dreams were obliterated by cheats.
Less than a year later he died after crashing his car while under the influence. Several reports claim he’d turned to drink because he couldn’t cope with his career ending the way it did – so unjustly.
The fight was changed to a No Contest, Resto and Lewis were shunned from the sport and both served time in prison for their roles in such a disgusting act. Lewis, never far from controversy, always proclaimed his innocence. Resto pleaded naivety. Boxing never allowed either of them back to the big time. Resto operates in the shadows of New York gyms, Lewis – 75 this year – can still dine out on being one of the most crooked men in a crooked sport.
Rightly boxing collectively turned it’s back on them, though Lewis has had the ear of a handful of notable fighters since.
Boxers and their teams have always looked for an edge. More than a century ago faces were bathed in saltwater or brine or whatever they thought would harden skin to prevent cuts.
When Matthew Saad Muhammad defeated John Conteh in their first fight, his cutman Adolph Ritacco used an illegal substance to stem Saad’s horrific cut and survive the fight. Ritacco was suspended.
There’s been examples of smelling salts being used in fights to bring an apparently beaten fighter back from the brink only to storm to victory a round or so later.
In more recent decades, performance enhancing drugs have been the weapon of choice.
Boxers may think it’s about them, about becoming stronger, fitter and faster but really they’re no better than Resto, and the suppliers or coaches who give them what they do are no better than Lewis.
It’s cheating to win. It goes further than that, too, it’s cheating to damage your opponent.
Even if that’s not one’s intention, by making yourself punch unnaturally harder, by being more resilient and fit, you make your opponent struggle more. During a struggle, well that’s when acute injuries can occur.
Why aren’t cheats met with such stiff resistance in this sport? Why aren’t they condemned and banished, like Resto and Lewis. Why are they given chance after chance, inducted into our Halls of Fames and allowed to get rich?
On July 9, Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller is slated to return after missing out on a humongous payday against Anthony Joshua last year. He failed a drug test. In fact, like the Pringles commercial, once he popped, he couldn’t stop, testing positive for GW501516, EPO and HGH. He seemed to take ownership of it, then he denied it. They all do, don’t they?
He shouldn’t be back. Never. Top Rank shouldn’t be enabling him. His fights should be boycotted. Actually, it shouldn’t be down to me or you opting in or out on a moral stance, it should be down to the sport closing ranks on people who don’t want to play this most simple of sports by its most simple rules.
But there’s a revolving door in boxing and it’s embarrassing. What does a promoter want out of someone like Miller, who has tarnished the name of the sport as well as his own? Do they want to give hm a championship opportunity?
At what point should we stop dishing out second chances? What do they need to do? If boxing turns a blind eye when a fighter is prepared to risk inflicting unethical harm on an opponent at what point does it penalise anyone?
Miller has been gifted a route back to the big time by Top Rank, seemingly no questions asked, seemingly so damns given.
Thirty-seven years ago a life was changed forever. Then the life of Billy Collins was ruined. Then it was over.
Maybe boxing has to pick its battles but this is one it’s losing. Promoters shouldn’t be allowed to showcase or sign fighters who have cheated. Commissions shouldn’t allow them to appear. Trainers shouldn’t train them. The fans shouldn’t watch. The media shouldn’t cover their fights.
This shouldn’t still be happening but boxing clearly disagrees or else there’d be no way back for the cheats.