Cornered Packs an Emotional Wallop!
The compelling drama of boxing – what HBO announcer Larry Merchant calls “the theater of the unexpected” — has produced many recent great documentaries.
Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story examined the tragedy of the fateful third bout between Emile Griffith and Benny “Kid” Paret that led to the death of the Cuban boxer and calls to reform boxing. On The Ropes brilliantly displayed the “Sweet Science” through the prism of three young boxers - Tyrene Manson, Noel Santiago and George Walton. Shadow Boxer showcased the great female pugilist Lucia Rijker.
A new documentary should be placed in the discussion of these great documentaries: Cornered.
Cornered examines the tortured soul of boxer Luis Resto – banned from boxing and sent to prison for entering the ring against undefeated, promising prospect Billy Collins Jr. with padding removed from his gloves in 1983. On the undercard of the Roberto Duran-Davey Moore junior middleweight title bout at Madison Square Garden, Resto battered Collins over 10 rounds – the prospect refusing to go down or quit despite a horrific beating on June 16, 1983. The tragedy continued for the Collins’ family, as a depressed and injury Collins died in a car accident less than a year later.
After the bout, Billy Collins Sr. shook Resto’s hand and knew something was wrong. Stuffing was removed from Resto’s gloves, explaining the terrible bruising on young Collins’ face. Resto and his trainer Panama Lewis received prison sentences and life bans from boxing.
Cornered examines the life and tortured soul of Luis Resto, who at the start of the film denies knowledge of glove tampering but later admits his knowledge and adds a bombshell – that the taping on his hands were dipped in plaster. While those admissions – revealed earlier in April —have garnered the headlines, the documentary packs a powerful punch for other reasons.
It details the impact that fateful night had on Resto, his meetings and final confrontation with his former trainer Panama Lewis and his apology to Collins’ former widow. “I don’t want to live with that shit in my mind the rest of my life,” Resto says in the film. He sits by the grave of Collins Jr. and says “sorry Bill” – scenes of searing and unforgettable emotion for viewers.
Eric Drath, the director, writer and co-producer of the film, first began researching Resto-Collins in 1999 after meeting Resto. He started shooting the film in the winter of 2006.
“I just knew there was more to the story than anybody was fessing up to,” he said in an interview with FightNews. “I read over 3,000 pages of court transcripts and there still seemed to be some holes in the case. And there were.”
The film, displayed at the Nashville Film Festival, drew criticism from some members of the Collins family who were in the viewing audience. During a question-and-answer session with co-producer Barry Murphy, a sister of Billy Collins Jr. and others criticized the film as largely forgetting about Billy and telling “the life of Resto.”
One can’t help but empathize with the never-healed wounds suffered by the Collins family.
However, Cornered remains a powerful documentary that tracks a troubled soul on the possible road to redemption.
“I had to tell the story through the subject I had access to [Resto],” explains Drath, who could not be present in Nashville due to the birth of his child. “I understand that they [the Collins family] want to preserve his memory and his legacy, but what cements his memory more as a tough-as-nails guy better than to find out what he really stood up to for 10 rounds. I would think they would be happy to find out the whole truth, especially now since the case (civil suit originally filed by Collins’ father) may in fact be reopened due to what we discovered.”
This documentary packs a powerful punch and will absorb the interest of boxing fans. Numerous boxing personalities – including Ron Katz, Robert Middleman, Steve Farhood, Ron Scott Stevens, Johnny Boz and Tony Perez (who refereed the Resto-Collins Bout) – are featured during the film. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys from the resulting criminal trials reflect on their recollections as well.
For many boxing fans, Cornered will corner their interest and cause them to reflect more deeply on the devastating impact caused by one of boxing’s blackest eyes.
David L. Hudson Jr. is the co-author of Boxing's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Champs, Chumps and Punch-Drunk Palookas (Potomac Books, 2003). He is also a licensed boxing judge and member of the Tennessee Boxing Advisory Board. You can find out more about David at www.davidlhudsonjrbooks.com.