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Friday, December 2, 2011
Billy Collins looms over Margarito

By Michael Woods

The presence of Antonio Margarito in New York will be evocative for some folks, and not in a good way.

Some people think of him as "Margacheato" and believe that he knew what was going on when the California commission confiscated hardened pads which were underneath knuckle pads on his fists before he was to fight Shane Mosley on Jan. 24, 2009. His then-trainer, Javier Capetillo, took the blame, saying it was his fault these hard gauze pads were inserted.

Lab tests showed elements of plaster of Paris on the pads.

Margarito's insistence that he knew nothing basically had the credibility of Sgt. Schultz in most quarters (readers 40 and older will get the joke, others can email me) and Capetillo's "explanation" didn't pass a sniff test to many, if not most, noses. Cali banned Margarito, and he had to get on his knees and plead to be licensed in the U.S. when he fought Manny Pacquaio in Texas in November 2010.

Margarito didn't have to speak to the shady-wrap situation when he came to get an N.Y. license, but that doesn't mean the issue doesn't linger in the minds of people who were in the city when Luis Resto nearly battered Billy Collins blind on June 16, 1983.

That was the night at MSG when Roberto Duran stopped Davey Moore in Round 8 and took the Bronx fighter's WBA junior middleweight title. The event proved to be meaningful in that it was a return to form for Duran, 2½ years after he made "No Mas" the signature phrase for any athlete who spits the bit.

But that was also the night that Resto stole a piece of Billy Collins' heart, hacked off a chunk of his soul and rendered him a bit less of a man, aided by the fact that much of the padding in Resto's gloves had been yanked out in the dressing room.

Yeah, Duran put a wicked beating on Moore, who in retrospect didn't have the seasoning, after just 12 pro fights, to engage in a fight with Duran without headgear and sparring gloves. But the one Resto, then 20-8-1, put on Collins, who entered 14-0, was a different animal.

Collins, out of Nashville, and just 22, went downhill mentally after Resto's drubbing tore his iris and left him with blurred vision. As documented in the superior documentary "Assault in the Ring," the boxer dulled his pain with booze and pot, and died in a car crash while driving drunk nine months after the assault.

Resto denied knowledge about doctored gloves, but he was convicted in 1986 of assault and served 2½ years. Finally, in 2007, he came clean. The Bronx-based fighter/felon admitted he knew what was going on when his trainer Panama Lewis took about 60 percent of the horsehair out of the gloves and, furthermore, said Lewis soaked his hands in plaster of Paris.

Lewis to this day denies any wrongdoing and says an assistant, not he, wrapped Resto's hands that tragic night.

Some will say the ghost of Billy Collins could well be haunting the dressing room in the Garden on fight night, and will be watching to make sure there's no funny business going on, that Margarito plays it straight against Miguel Cotto. We can't know what he would say to Resto today, but we wonder. Would he forgive Luis, if Luis asked? Would he be unable to forget, or forgive?

Well, Resto is asking for the New York State Athletic Commission to if not forget, then forgive. He's been banned from getting a license to box or have anything to do with boxing, including being a trainer, in N.Y. Two weeks ago, he told Eric Drath, who directed "Assault," that he wanted to get a license to work in the corner in N.Y. Drath was all for it, and helped Resto with the process.

Check back for an update from Drath on how the license application process went, and why he thinks Resto should be able to ply his trade.