There is just something about the history of boxing that makes for a great story. HBO”s newest documentary Assault in the Ring opens up one of boxing”s Pandora”s boxes. Unlike most documentaries, there is nothing to celebrate about one of the darkest nights in sports history.
Assault in the Ring takes a look back at the infamous fight between Luis Resto and Billy Collins Jr from 1983. The fight took place at Madison Square Garden underneath the Roberto Duran vs. Davey Moore main-event. Nobody would ever guess that this undercard match between two welterweights would make boxing history.
Resto won the fight via decision. Resto pummeled Collins for 10 rounds, literally beating the sh*t out of him. It was revealed following the fight that Resto had taken padding out of his glove. Not only was Resto fighting with an illegal glove, his hands were casted. In other words, Resto was hitting Collins with rocks for 10 rounds.
Assault in the Ring takes a look back at this night and the fallout of the event. The documentary is incredibly compelling from the first minute. The story focuses on how that night changed the life of Luis Resto forever. In the end, Resto is painted as a victim that was taken advantage of by his trainer Panama Lewis. I can tell you that after watching this documentary that Luis Resto may be a lot of things but victim is not one of them.
I have to admit that by the end of the movie, I was disgusted with boxing. Panama is banned from working corners. However, he still trains plenty of boxers. Since the Collings fight, he has trained everyone from Mike Tyson to Zab Judah. Panama works around this by training his fighters, yet never appearing in the corner. It is a dirty wink and a nod in my opinion.
The movie plays out the evidence by not only interviewing Resto, but looking at police reports and talking to cops. The theory that is played out over and over again is that this had something to do with gambling. Reports indicate that Panama had a meeting with a drug dealer who wanted to make a lot of money by betting on Resto. Panama doctored the gloves and cast Resto”s hands in order to guarantee victory.
My first inclination was to think that this was a bit of a stretch. Why not just have Resto take a dive if this was all about gambling? However, the more the movie played out the more plausible it got. Resto seemed too proud to take a dive, yet not too proud to cheat. While the dive would have made more sense, I don”t think Resto would have gone for it.
Resto denies knowing anything as the movie begins. By the end, he is somewhat admitting everything. I say this because there are times where he just answers yes to whatever he is being asked. Resto doesn”t really go into detail. Resto kept saying Panama took the gloves into the bathroom. He continually puts most of the blame on Panama. I can”t recall ever hearing him say, “Yes I knew exactly what I was doing.”
Resto is given a few free passes in the movie. For one thing, the documentarian notes that Panama was paid for his interviews. He never reveals that he paid Resto as well for his story. Resto also says at one point he was a body puncher but stuck to the face in this fight. I think that says a lot about Luis Resto.
Collins was a mess following the fight. Collins suffered a torn iris and permanently blurred vision as a result of the fight. Collins was told that if he fought again he risked permanent blindness. At 22 Collins went from an undefeated up and comer to retired. Collins later died after crashing his car while intoxicated.
At the end of the day, the movie takes you on an emotional rollercoaster that started in 1983 and continues to this day. Luis Resto is now licensed to work corners and is back in the boxing game. Panama continues to play the dance with boxing and make millions of dollars. Billy Collins Jr. is dead. Assault in the Ring does a great job of trying to make sense of all of the crazy pieces in this compelling puzzle.
Check out another take on the story from Sports Illustrated written over ten years ago. Click here to read the article Bare Knuckles on CNNSI.com.
Read the book The Sweet Science Goes Sour: How Scandal Brought Boxing to Its Knees by clicking here.
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