An Open Response to Panama Lewis Video Statements: You Dirty Cheater
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Watching the above 2008 boxingconfidential.com video clip of an interview with Carlos ‘Panama’ Lewis expressing sympathy for the loss of Billy Collins Jr. to his family made this reporter disgusted. The interview, now on YouTube with Lewis, took place after the 2008 Documentary ‘Assault in the Ring’ was released about Billy Collins Jr. versus Luis Resto.
On June 16, 1983, ABC Wide World of Sports telecast the lightweight bout between 14-0 Irish Billy Collins Jr. of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and 20-7-2 Luis Resto of Bronx, New York. Resto’s 10 round decision victory was overturned by the New York State Athletic Commission, and Lewis and Resto were banned from boxing for life, when it was discovered trainer Lewis, a dirty cheater, had cut ¾ inch hole in each of Resto’s boxing gloves, and removed an ounce of padding from each gloves. Collins suffered a torn iris and permanently blurred vision due to the actions of Lewis, and the career of this promising young future world champion was destroyed. His eye damage and resulting depression caused him to die in a car crash on March 6, 1984 at age 22, rumored to be suicide. Resto later admitted Lewis had done worse, dipping Resto’s hand wraps in plaster of Paris to harden them, as money was being bet on the fight, and it was not the first time Lewis had done this.
If Lewis did dip the hand tape of Resto into plaster of Paris before his bout with Billy Collins Jr. (and we don’t have the hand tape to prove it, only Resto’s statements attesting to the facts 25 years later in the documentary film in 2008), then this action-when combined with the removing of the glove padding-would be sufficient for a charge of attempted murder for both Lewis and Resto by both New York State and Federal authorities. However, without the hand tape to verify the story, there is insufficient evidence, and both men are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. 25 years after fighting Billy Collins Jr., Resto would have no reason to lie. Like Lewis, he’s already done jail time for the crime. Resto’s guilty conscience got to him. That is more than can be said for Lewis, who accused Resto of lying to juice up the documentary on the Collins-Resto bout. Lewis remains in denial, but as Resto said, Lewis had dipped fighter hand tape in plaster of Paris before, so it wasn’t a new story. Readers and boxing fans are now forced to draw their own conclusions.
For Lewis to express sympathy for the death of Billy Collins Jr. in the above 2008 video is an outrage. Lewis personally destroyed the life and career of Collins. He did so without remorse, and his actions contributed to Collins untimely death. Lewis served several years of his six year prison sentence for assault, criminal possession of a weapon (Resto’s hands) and conspiracy. Resto served three years in prison. This reporter wishes Panama Lewis and his partner in crime Luis Resto were jailed for life. Every time I see the picture of the blackened face of the Late Irish Billy Collins Jr., this reporter gets mad as hell.
Lewis was banned from boxing in every state but Pennsylvania. He was allowed to work the corner of Arturo Gatti in Philadelphia at the Blue Horizon on July 9, 1991, and Gatti knocked out a punching and energetic Melendez in 19 seconds. Was the hand tape of Gatti checked after Lewis wrapped it? Were Gatti’s gloves checked? Today, referees check gloves and hand tape ever so carefully. Back in the day of Lewis, hand tape and gloves were not subject to the same type of scrutiny.
In the above 2008 video clip, Lewis claimed he mixed tap water with Perrier water, and served Aaron Pryor a chilled dose to bring up his energy level in the fourteenth round of a fight Pryor seemed certain to lose. It was later stated by Resto his trainer Lewis had mixed broken up asthma pills with water in the bottle, and used it to give his fighters greater lung capacity and an adrenaline boost of energy during the fight. The contents of the Lewis ‘magical black bottle’ were undetectable in urine tests. Lewis claimed his instructions to Pryor in the first bout were the key to victory. Lewis was heard on camera asking for “The Mixed bottle.” His own words at ringside were a direct contradiction with his later claim.
Unbeaten contenders such as Akio Kameda and DuJuan Johnson were stopped by Aaron Pryor in defense of his WBA World Super Lightweight title before Arguello. Pryor is not to blame. Whether it was tampering with the hand tape, tampering with the gloves, or tampering with the water bottle, Lewis was always untrustworthy in this reporter’s view, and to the day he dies, he still is.
In the above 2008 video, Lewis brags about his rich prison bank account, and the people who supported him. I have no respect for them either. ‘Mario’ who put four to five thousand dollars in the prison bank account of Lewis every month, bought him a new Mercedes when he came out of jail, and gave him a gym in Jersey City. Evidently, cheating in the boxing profession was worthy of being rewarded for the patrons who still desired the boxing services of Lewis, whether his service as a boxing trainer was legal or not. Lewis also gives thanks to another financial benefactor named ‘Scott’, who paid for his apartment, and who he predicts will have many champions. Truth foretold, Lewis should not have been allowed to train boxers, or anyone else, or be on on anybody’s payroll.
When New York State revoked Lewis training license, most (but not all states) followed. Should Lewis even be allowed to set foot in a boxing gym? In this reporter’s view, absolutely not. Should he surface at any public boxing event? No, because the shame and disgrace he brought to the sport of boxing is timeless.
In the above 2008 video, Lewis gives thanks to God, and talks about faith. Did God help Billy Collins Jr. when Lewis and Resto cheated? Did the faith of Billy Collins Jr. in the promise of a fair fight bring him justice when he showed up to fight Resto fair and square at Madison Square Garden on June 16, 1983? In the video, he hopes the troops (in Iraq in 2008) return home safely. Did Billy Collins Jr. return home safely? Could he see again? Could he fight again? Could he have a life again? Referring to his own service in the Vietnam War, Lewis notes in war “Too many people die. I believe in peace.”
Billy Collins Jr. fought a war. Panama Lewis cheated. Far worse than the no-contest, Billy Collins was robbed of not just his boxing career, but his dignity, his vision, his soul and his life because of what Lewis did, and for which he holds no remorse over what he did before Collins entered the ring.
“They were fighting for nothing. There was no winner in that war.” Lewis is referring to Vietnam War in the 2008 video. This reporter is referring to the politics of cheating. When a fighter’s career is unfairly taken away, he is fighting for nothing. There is no winner in the ring war which destroys an honest professional boxer, when one side cheats.
Lewis’ condolences go out to the families of those who lost a loved one in the war. Did he have condolences for Collins when he cheated and destroyed his career? Lewis calls himself the son of God in the video. Really? To boxing fans, Lewis is a son of a something else, which isn’t God. Lewis states in life “You have to move on. I will rise again!” Billy Collins Jr. cannot rise again from the grave. His vision and his career were ended by Lewis.
“To this day, I always send my remorse to the Billy Collins family too, because I lost a loved one too.” To look into the camera and make such a statement, is to understand why Panama Lewis need never show his face at a boxing match anywhere ever again. He calls Billy’s father a close friend, but the words of Lewis are hollow. He states he feels sorry for Resto for losing his boxing license, but it was Lewis who took the padding out of the gloves, and spiked the hand tape. The boxing community feels no sympathy for Lewis, only pity. “This is America”, Lewis states in the video “And I don’t believe in this banned for life business.” Sorry, this is America, where USA boxing commissions and the law do believe the criminal actions of individuals like Panama deserve jail time and a ban from boxing.
For all the ranting and raving in the 2008 video by Lewis about belief in God and belief in faith, there is no expression of remorse or admission of wrongdoing for his night of infamy at Madison Square Garden, and there never will be. Lewis was inducted into pro boxing’s Ringtalk.com Hall of Shame in 2009, the infamous boxing opposite of the Hall of Fame.
The soul of Billy Collins Jr. is in the heavens, looking down with his blind eyes 33 years later on Panama Lewis, still demanding justice. The soul of Billy Collins Jr. is waiting patiently. Or, as the line in the song by Charlie Daniels and the Charlie Daniels Band ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ so aptly states “If you lose, the devil will get your soul.”