Sometimes they’re people in your family. Sometimes they’re people you know. And sometimes they’re people you’ve never met, but of whose work you’ve been made aware.
The common denominator to all those deaths is that someone, somewhere is suffering.
So I’ll concede that upon hearing reports of the death of Panama Lewis over the weekend, I felt a twinge of sympathy for anyone – family member, friend, colleague, etc. – who’s sad that he’s gone at age 74.
But as for me personally, no. There’s no grief.
Based on the body of work of which I’ve been made aware, he simply doesn’t deserve it.
If that stance puts me in peril with a higher power, I’ll take my chances. Because I’m guessing that if being unsympathetic to his passing dooms me to an eternity in flames, I’ll probably run into him a lot.
The now-departed Lewis, for those unaware, was a guilt-sopped conspirator in the single biggest in-ring crime of my lifetime – the June 1983 massacre of Billy Collins Jr. at Madison Square Garden in which Lewis tampered with gloves worn by Luis Resto and proceeded to watch Resto punch the unbeaten middleweight to a pulp with what essentially amounted to bare knuckles inside a thin leather sleeve.
Collins’ face was reduced to a hideous, lumpy mess, his eyesight was compromised and he never fought again. Just 264 days later, he was killed in a Tennessee car crash that family members said resulted from prolonged drinking and depression over the loss of his career. He was only 22 years old.
Lewis had his license revoked in New York and was effectively banned from boxing for life.
He also stood trial and was convicted on multiple charges – assault, conspiracy, tampering with a sports contest and criminal possession of a deadly weapon, among them – and spent time in prison.
Of course, lest anyone forget, it wasn’t Mr. Lewis’ only noteworthy walk on the sport’s wild side.
Fans of a certain age – or if nothing else, viewers of the “Tale of Pryor-Arguello” from HBO’s exemplary Legendary Nights series – will remember his very prominent role in Pryor’s corner that night. Particularly his repeated requests for a very specific black water bottle – “the one that I mixed” – that came shortly before Pryor’s stirring rally to stop Arguello in the 14th round of their classic first encounter in Miami.
Nothing to see here, claimed Lewis. Only Perrier and tap water. Perfectly legal.
Others, though, had other stories. A fellow cornerman that night said it was peppermint schnapps. And Resto himself said Lewis would break apart pills used to treat asthma and put them in the water, which would help boost a fighter’s lung capacity late in fights.
Regardless of the story you choose, neither scenario would be legal in any corner.
Arguello’s team filed a protest with both the WBA and the local commission, alleging Pryor used foreign substances and didn’t take a post-fight urine test. A rematch was called for and eventually occurred 10 months later in Las Vegas, but Lewis was not there – having worked with Resto in the interim.
Pryor, as dynamic a fighter as there’s been, won the return bout without Lewis – but never escaped suggestions he’d won the first time because of an unfair advantage. And Resto, who’d never neared the level of violence he unleashed on Collins, doesn’t deserve the “unknowing patsy” turf he’s tried to claim.
After-the-fact apologies and come-to-Jesus moments with the family notwithstanding, the most visceral takeaway from that awful night in midtown Manhattan is Resto’s panicked look toward Lewis in the corner as Collins’ father grabs his hand after the fight and immediately senses an irregularity.
He’d had chances to come clean over 10 rounds. But he was far more concerned with being caught than with what he’d done. And if he’d gotten away with it, it’s anyone guess what might have come next.
What happened to Collins in this life was tragic. What happens to Lewis in the next is karma.
So with all due respect to those still in mourning … good riddance, Panama.
Or if you prefer … adios, Mierda.
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF cruiserweight title – Munich, Germany
Yuniel Dorticos (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Mairis Briedis (No. 6 IBF/No. 1 IWBR)
Dorticos (24-1, 22 KO): First title defense; Held WBA title at 200 (2017-18, one defense)
Briedis (26-1, 19 KO): Fifth title fight (3-1); Held WBC, WBO titles at 200 (2017-18, 2019, one defense)
Fitzbitz says: Many recent title bouts at cruiser have been good ones, and this should be no different. Dorticos has big-punch street cred, but Briedis seems more versatile. Briedis by decision (75/25)
IBF/WBA junior welterweight/super lightweight titles – London, United Kingdom
Josh Taylor (IBF-WBA champ/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Apinun Khongsong (No. 1 IBF/No. 76 IWBR)
Taylor (16-0, 12 KO): Second IBF title defense; Six KO/TKO wins in nine scheduled 12-rounders
Khongsong (16-0, 13 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Asia (15 in Thailand, one in Japan)
Fitzbitz says: I’m sure Khongsong is a wonderful guy and a respectably skilled fighter, but he’s in way over his head with a kid as good as Taylor. Showcase fight for the hometown champ. Taylor in 10 (99/1)
IBF/WBA/WBC junior middleweight/super welterweight titles – Uncasville, Connecticut
Jeison Rosario (IBF-WBA champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Jermell Charlo (WBC champion/No. 1 IWBR)
Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KO): First IBF/WBA title defenses; Won title in only scheduled 12-rounder
Charlo (33-1, 17 KO): First title defense; Five KO/TKO wins in seven scheduled 12-rounders (6-1, 5 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Rosario is a nice story and he pulled off a nice upset in front of J-Rock’s home crowd in Philadelphia, but Charlo is an entirely different animal and should win impressively. Charlo in 6 (85/15)
Vacant WBC super bantamweight title – Uncasville, Connecticut
Luis Nery (No. 1 WBC/Unranked IWBR) vs. Aaron Alameda (No. 6 WBC/Unranked IWBR)
Nery (30-0, 24 KO): Third title fight (2-0); Held WBC title at 115 (2017-18, one defense)
Alameda (25-0, 13 KO): First title fight; One career fight scheduled past eight rounds (1-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: OK, I could ask how a guy gets ranked No. 6 in a weight class without having a single fight ever scheduled past eight rounds, but it won’t matter. He won’t see Round 8 here. Nery in 3 (99/1)
WBC middleweight title – Uncasville, Connecticut
Jermall Charlo (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenko (No. 1 WBC/No. 7 IWBR)
Charlo (30-0, 22 KO): Third title defense; Held IBF title at 154 (2015-16, three defenses)
Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KO): Third title fight (0-2); Lost IBF (2018), IBF/IBO title shots (2019) at 160
Fitzbitz says: This is a referendum on how you feel about Charlo. Personally, I’m a believer. I think Derevyanchenko is a rugged guy, but a good style match for him to impress. Charlo by decision (90/10)
WBO bantamweight title – Uncasville, Connecticut
John Riel Casimero (champion/No. 3 IWBR) vs. Duke Micah (No. 11 WBO/Unranked IWBR)
Casimero (29-4, 20 KO): First title defense; Won by 12th-round KO in only fight in United States
Micah (24-0, 19 KO): First title fight; Three decisions and a TKO in four fights in United States
Fitzbitz says: As much as I’d love – and I do mean love – to pick a fighter nicknamed “The Baby-Faced Terminator” to win a championship, I just can’t do it here. There’s levels to this. Casimero in 8 (95/5)
This week’s garbage title-fight schedule:
WBA “world” super bantamweight title – Uncasville, Connecticut
Brandon Figueroa (No. 6 IWBR) vs. Damien Vazquez (Unranked IWBR)
Why It’s Garbage: Same old, same old. And as long as the WBA insists on having multiple champions in each weight class, I’ll insist on calling their lesser titles what they are – garbage. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Last week's picks: None
2020 picks record: 18-3 (85.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,135-368 (75.5 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.