Williams Ray Collins Jr. or ‘Irish’ Billy Collins Jr. as he became known, was born to a boxing father of Irish stock in Antioch, Tennessee in 1961.
His father William Sr, once fought Welterweight Champion Curtis Cokes and wanted his boy to follow in his footsteps and decided to train Billy himself.
Collins Jr. turned pro in 1981, a welterweight just like his father before him and impressively won his first 14 professional contests, 11 by knockout with eight inside the first three rounds.
Its was 1983 and Billy was matched up against Puerto Rican journeyman Luis Resto on the undercard of Roberto Duran v Davey Moore at Madison Square Garden in a ten rounder.
Resto wasn’t known for his punching power but Billy took a sustained beating for the full ten rounds, his face was was badly damaged and his eyes were almost shut.
After the fight, which Resto won on decision, Billy’s father shook Resto’s hand and noticed there wasn’t much padding in his gloves and tried to alert the referee, The Puerto Rican pulled his hand away and protested his innocence.
After the fight, a full investigation was launched by the New York State Boxing Commission and as a result, it was found that Panama Lewis, Resto’s trainer had removed an ounce of padding from his boxer’s gloves to give him an unfair advantage.
Lewis was banned form any role in boxing for life, while Resto was told he could not box for at least a year, but never fought again.
|Billy after the fight|
Although both men were convicted, the damage had seemingly already been done. After the fight, Collins suffered a torn iris and permanent blurred vision as a result of Resto’s cheating and was told he could never box again.
He lost two subsequent jobs and spiralled into a depression, started smoking marijuana and drinking heavily, violent mood swings then followed which threatened his marriage to his wife Andrea, who was only 18 and pregnant at the time.
Billy was involved in car crash near his home in March 1984 which proved fatal, Billy was killed on impact and many people say that because of the depression and the fact he could never box again, he may have committed suicide.
The family had already launched lawsuit’s against Top Rank Boxing (the promoters), the referee, the inspectors and Everlast, who made the gloves that were used, but now because of Billy’s death, all were thrown out as a result.
Documentary, ‘Assault in the Ring
In 2007, Resto belatedly came out with an apology to Collins’ wife in a documentary, now known as Andrea Collins-Nile and in a dramatic twist, also revealed that his hands were soaked in plaster of Paris before the fight.
This would have set Resto’s hands so that the effects were like Billy being hit by rocks and gave more insight into the terrible injuries that Collins suffered that night in the Garden.
Resto went further, even admitting his trainer, Panama Lewis had done this at least twice before and shows that the punishments were nowhere near what they should have been, but for the family of the stricken boxer though, it was too little too late.
Collins’ family were never compensated for what happened to their 22 year old son.
‘Irish’ Billy Collins Jr. remembered By Phil D Jay for www.britishboxers.co.uk