Resto: Wraps were doctored with plaster in fight vs. Collins

Updated: April 4, 2008, 11:24 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former welterweight Luis Resto has acknowledged that the beating he gave the late Billy Collins Jr. in 1983 -- in which, over 10 rounds, he pounded Collins with tampered gloves that each had two inches of padding removed -- was even worse than previously believed.

The admission, which Resto made to Collins' widow last year during the filming of a documentary about the scandal, has led to a motion to re-open a civil suit against the State of New York over its failure to prevent the beating.

Resto, at a news conference on Thursday in New York, acknowledged that the tape used to wrap his hands in that fight had been soaked in plaster of Paris, giving him a pair of hardened casts underneath his unpadded gloves.

Collins suffered from blurred vision and depression after the June 16, 1983 fight. He died in a car accident about nine months later.

The admission, which Resto made to Collins' widow, Andrea Collins-Nile, last year during the filming of a documentary about the scandal, has led to a motion to re-open a civil suit against the State of New York over its failure to prevent the beating. The legal filing was also announced Thursday.

Eric Drath, who directed "Cornered," the documentary about the fight and its tragic aftermath, said it was a "heinous and tragic crime" that needed to be retold, according to The (Nashville) Tennessean.

"It happened in a much more brutal way" than had previously believed, Drath said. "Worse than bare knuckles, it was plaster."

My boy would have been world champion. He would have been great. I fought it for 20 years and couldn't beat the system. There was no justice. It's still hounding me.

-- Billy Collins Sr.

Resto and his trainer, Panama Lewis, were convicted of assault and conspiracy and served jail time after a jury found they had tampered with the gloves. Both men were banned from boxing.

But a civil trial over the state boxing commission's failure to prevent the beating resulted in a hung jury and was dismissed by a federal claims court judge. Collins-Nile's motion at U.S. District Court in Albany seeks to re-open the case.

"Ultimately I'm not Resto's judge," Collins-Nile said, according to the New York Daily News. "The boxing commission was negligent. They were there to protect my ex-husband and they did not."

Mark Thompson, the lawyer representing Collins-Nile in the case, said he is hopeful Resto's confession will convince a judge to re-open the case, according to the Daily News. The wraps were never confiscated after the fight, but Drath believes that Resto might still have them.

Last summer, during a visit to Nashville in conjunction with the filming of "Cornered," Resto confessed to Collins' widow that the wraps had been doctored. He said he could no longer live with the secret.

"I should have said something. I lived with it for 24 years. I had to let it go. I'm sorry I kept my mouth shut," Resto said, according to The Tennessean. "I went to see Collins' ex-wife. She accepted my apology. I went to the cemetery, too, to show my respect to Billy Collins. I told Billy, 'I'm sorry for what I did to you.' "

Collins-Nile said Resto's appearance and confession came as a surprise.

"Resto was kinda sprung on me when [Drath] came down to do his interviews. I didn't even know he was here," she said, according to The Tennessean. "Resto was pretty much crying and said he didn't murder Billy.

"During the fight, Billy told [his father and trainer Billy Collins Sr.] it felt like he was getting hit with rocks," she added. "Now we know he really was getting hit with rocks. It was that much worse."

It was Collins' father who, during a post-fight handshake, discovered that Resto's gloves had been tampered with and alerted a state boxing commissioner. He is not planning to watch the documentary about his late son, which will premiere on April 20 at a Nashville theater.

"My boy would have been world champion. He would have been great," he said, according to The Tennessean. "I fought it for 20 years and couldn't beat the system. I just gave up on it. It shoulda been an open and shut case, but there was no justice. It's still hounding me."