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Forgotten Champions: Billy Costello

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  • Forgotten Champions: Billy Costello

    Billy Castello was the WBC light welter champion between 1984 and 1985. He sensationally won the title when he stopped the excellent Bruce Curry in 10 rounds and defended it three times, before losing it to Lonnie Smith in a climactic war, by TKO in 8 rounds. Costello was a fine amateur who also played baseball. He was not the hardest puncher, but was an accumulation puncher with plenty of toughness and good boxing skills. He only lost 2 fights out of 42 and retired with a record of 40 wins, scoring 23 knockouts. Here is a little about him.

    Despite his real name being William Castiglioni, Costello was born to an African American father and an Asian Indian mother, one of nine children, April 10 1956 in Kingston, New York. He stood just above 5'8 (174 cm) and had a reach of 71 inches or 180 cm. As mentioned, his first love was baseball and he dreamed of becoming a pitcher, but he got into trouble after participating in the robbery of a convenience store with his friends and was sentenced to probation after several days in jail. He was therefore thrown out of the high school baseball team, but he found a new calling: boxing. He won the New York Open Golden Gloves lightweight championship in March 1978 and one month later, he won the New York GG light welterweight championship. He embarked on a professional career with a fight on 22 August 1979, beating Angel Ortiz by UD4. He was 26-0 when he faced the reigning WBC 140-pound champion, Bruce Curry, brother of Donald. Curry was an inch taller and known as a very clever boxer, making his third defense. It was 29 January 1984 at the Civic Center in Beaumont, Texas, the home state of Curry. The underdog from New York surprised everyone when he dominated the fight and halted Curry by TKO10 after being convincingly ahead on scorecards. He made his first defense against the number one ranked The Ring contender, Ronnie Shields, 15 July at Municipal Auditorium in Kingston. After 12 rounds, Costello won by the scores of 117-110, 119-110 and 117-111 to make his first successful defense. He then fought the famous former world champion Saoul Mamby in his second defense, 3 November that same year at Midtown Neighborhood Center in Kingston. The fight was televised by ABC and Costello appeared to win almost every round against the slower Mamby and won by the scores of 118-110 and 119-109 twice.

    He then took on the guy who beat Mamby for his WBC title but lost it to Bruce Curry, Leroy Haley. He again won by UD12 by a wide margin, 16 February '85 in Kingston. He then fought Lonnie Smith in his fourth defense, on 21 August at Madison Square Garden. The fight would be very dramatic and entertaining, as Costello first put Smith down in the first round, but was down himself twice in the second, once in the fifth and finally twice in the eight, which forced the referee to end the fight. Costello thus lost in an upset by TKO8. Smith would go on to lose the title in his very first defense, against Rene Arredondo by TKO5. Costello came back by knocking out journeyman Rick Kaiser in 2 rounds, after being down in the first. He then took on Alexis Arguello in a televised bout in Reno, Nevada on 9 February '86. Costello won the first three rounds clearly, hitting Arguello at will, but Arguello took his shots well and came back by landing a picture perfect right hand which put Costello down in round four. Costello beat the count but was out of gas. He was then finished off with a power combination on the ropes before the fight was over. With it was also Costello's career and he retired at almost 30. He came back in 1992 and after winning 8 fights, he had his last against Juan LaPorte, 18 June 1999 and won by a split decision. He retired for good after that.

    Costello worked as a boxing judge and a home contractor in retirement. At one point, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and after a long battle against it, he died on 29 June 2011, aged 55. Today he is rarely talked about, probably due to the LWW division being less glamorous in the 80's than it is now. Therefore, he is a FORGOTTEN CHAMPION.

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