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Remembering a True Champion: Billy Costello

Billy Costello

Article By Billy Tibbs


After winning the New York Golden Gloves as a lightweight, Billy Costello, (born William Donald Castiglioni), turned to the professional ranks. Fighting predominantly in the Westchester County and Kingston areas of New York, he built up a strong following with his impressive, undefeated record out of the gate. His management also struck a deal with CBS Sports which aired a lot of his bouts allowing him to garner a national following.


Entering 1984, Costello was 26-0 and was awarded a shot at the World Boxing Council junior welterweight title. He would have to travel to the “Lone Star State” of Texas and battle champion Bruce Curry who was making the 3rd defense of his title. In a great performance, in front of a very pro Curry crowd, he knocked out the champion in the 10th round, to win the world title. He made his first defense 6 months later taking on another Texas native, Port Arthur’s Ronnie Shields. This time though, Shields would have to battle in Costello’s backyard of Kingston, New York. Shield’s proved tough and went the distance, but Costello won a comfortable points decision over 12 rounds. Costello finished off 1984 by defending his title for the 2nd time in Kingston against experienced veteran Saoul Mamby. Again the challenger proved game and went the full 12 but also lost on all the cards. Costello kicked off 1985 with a February points win over Leroy Haley in his 3rd title defense. Costello would defend the title for the 4th time at New York’ Madison Square Garden against Colorado’s “Lightning” Lonnie Smith. The bout saw Costello take a trip to the canvas, as well as suffer a bad cut, and he was stopped in the 8th round. After picking up a 2nd round KO win 4 months later, Costello next tangled with former world champion Alexis Arguello in his first bout of 1986. Costello built up a points lead but the Hall of Fame veteran dropped him and finished him in round 4. After the loss Costello took some time off before returning to ring in 1992. He would fight 9 times between 1992 and 1999. His final fight in June of 1999 was a 10 round split decision win over former world champion Juan Laporte.

In retirement Costello worked in home renovations and road construction. He remained active in the sport serving as a judge and referee in the New York area. Costello was also the subject, in part, of Thomas Hauser’s critically acclaimed book, “The Black Lights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing”. Friends and family also raised funds to erect a statue in his honor in his hometown of Kingston, New York. Billy Costello, who didn’t put on a pair of boxing gloves until the age of 19, retired with an impressive record of 40-2, (23 knockouts). Sadly, 12 years into retirement, 2 years ago this month, former world champion Billy Costello died of lung cancer on June 29, 2011, at the age of 55. Gone but never forgotten.

-Rest in Peace, Champ.

Questions and comments can be sent to Bill Tibbs at hwtibbs@shaw.ca.
 
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