New year brings great events, terrible memories
Another chapter has come to a close in the darkest, saddest, ugliest — and yes, most evil — sports story I ever covered when I was a boxing writer for The Tennessean. Billy Ray Collins Sr., a Golden Gloves champion and pro boxing contender, died on Tuesday, Jan. 9, in Nashville at age 80. Services re Saturday, Jan. 13.
But the tragedy of the family’s story was what happened on June 16, 1983 to son “Irish” Billy Collins who followed in his dad’s boxing footsteps. Young Collins was a rising star with a 14-0 record when he stepped into the ring at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden for a 10-round fight against lightly regarded puncher Luis Resto.
The elder Collins, seen kneeling in the first photo, trained his son and was working the corner that night. Collins, a tough kid, wasn’t knocked down but absorbed a terrible beating. A mugging. For 10 rounds. It turned out that Resto’s gloves had been tampered with and half of the horsehair padding removed. Resto, trained by the controversial Panama Lewis, said in 2008 that his hand wraps had been dipped in plaster.
About midway through the fight, Irish Billy told his father “It feels like he’s hitting me with rocks.” Collins Sr., became suspicious and after Resto’s win was announced, the father went to shake hands in the middle of the ring. He felt the doctored glove and grabbed Resto’s arm, shouting for ringside officials to check the gloves. After subsequent investigations, the fight was declared “no contest.” Billy’s eye injuries were so severe that he was never able to box again. Both Resto and Lewis were convicted and served time.
I wasn’t at the fight, but covered the story and ensuing trials from Nashville via telephone interviews. Billy Jr., died in a car crash in 1984. Now, father and son are reunited again, and I hope both have found a peace that eluded them on earth.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. They were the feel-good Titans after securing their first playoff berth in 14 years with a 15-10 victory over the Jaguars in the season finale, and the Bad/Good Titans when they rallied to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 in the wild-card round of the NFL Playoffs. But they were the Ugly Titans when they fell 35-14 to the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Then things got even uglier when, just a day earlier of publicly supporting him, the Titans abruptly fired coach Mike Mularkey, saying the team and coach disagreed on what it would take to get the Titans to the next level. Hope they find the right man. Nashville deserves a winner and a winning team.
January 18 is the long-awaited debut of the Ray Stevens CabaRay Showroom project, located at 5724 River Road just off Charlotte Pike. I interviewed Ray for the Ledger during the construction process, and now his dream is about to come to fruition.
“This whole process has been a real labor of love for me,” the country music and comedic legend said in a recent press release. “It took some time to get the building fully constructed and iron out all the kinks but I’m thrilled to say we’re finally ready to open the doors to the public. We’d hoped to open last year… but better late than never!
“This is a uniquely Nashville facility that celebrates the city and the industry I love and that has been so very good to me.”
The CabaRay is a 700-seat state-of-the-art facility that pays tribute to the past glories of Music City – the producers, musicians, songwriters and artists – and also boasts a recording studio, gift shop, piano bar and many other features. We attended a dress rehearsal / VIP event the other night, and Ray put on a quality show.
Billed as an old-fashioned, Las Vegas-style supper club, Stevens will perform Thursday-Saturday in the main room, Dinner service is included for the 500 fans who are seated downstairs, and 200-plus can be seated upstairs for the show only.
As always, thanks for reading.