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Roll with it.

It's slang used in today's lexicon, meaning to deal with life's ups and downs.

It originated in boxing, describing a fighter's ability to roll with a punch to lessen its impact.

As it applies to part-time Gilbertsville resident Barry Murphy, it's an apt saying.

The Hartwick College graduate has endured 49 years worth of a roller-coaster existence that recently reached an apex with his involvement in an HBO documentary, Assault in the Ring.

Murphy, one of the project's executive producers, collaborated with friend Eric Drath on an 18-month odyssey that uncovered tragic details of an obscure prize fight June 16, 1983 at Madison Square Garden.

It has aired throughout the month of August and does not fit into a conventional plot.

There are no good guys in this hour-and-23-minute piece, just varying degrees of bad guys.

Murphy worked behind the camera, following Drath to places such as Florida, Tennessee and Virginia to tell the story of Luis Resto's 10-round unanimous decision over Billy Collins Jr. in a junior middleweight bout on the undercard of a Roberto Duran-Davey Moore fight.

But before we get to the critically-acclaimed piece _ one centered on human failures and frailties _ you've got to know a little more about Murphy.

Since graduating from Hartwick in 1981, the lifelong bachelor has bounced around quite a bit.

He's worked in oil fields in Oklahoma; rustled cattle; worked for a logging company; had small roles in soap operas such as All My Children and Another World and various commercials; waited tables; tended bar; done comedy; driven a cab; and worked behind the scenes on films.

All at once, he seems affable and absent-minded; wordy and poignant; honest and evasive.

Murphy, who also spends quite a bit of time in New York City, can turn a four-word question into a four-minute answer that usually ends with "Now, what were we talking about?"

A Navy brat as a child, Murphy moved with his family from Charleston, S.C., to Gilbertsville as a 10th-grader in 1974.

"(Gilbertsville) was like The Waltons," he said of the popular 1970s TV show about a Virginia family during the Great Depression.

His father, Frank, who died of cancer in 2000, was a plumber at Hartwick College and later a building and grounds supervisor at Cooperstown Central.

"(My father) afforded me the opportunity to go to Hartwick," Barry said. "I got to love Oneonta. This is home."

Murphy majored in anthropology and minored in geology at Hartwick.

Shortly after graduating from Hartwick, he hopped on his motorcycle and headed to Oklahoma, looking to take advantage of the oil boom. With no place to stay, he said, he lived in a tent for a time and then in a trailer.

After "analyzing mud" for a while, along with other odd jobs, he saw an advertisement to sell real estate on a cable channel.

"It felt really good until I stood in front of the camera," he said. "You have to have your act together and I crashed and burned."

Still, Murphy said, the experience put the idea of acting into his mind.

He went to New York City in 1983 and took one acting class.

"I came so close so many times to such big things," Murphy said of a career that ended in 2000 and was defined more by thanks-but-no-thanks ventures than actual gigs.

He said his failures prepared him for Assault in the Ring, which re-airs at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on HBO, and at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday on HBO2.

"With so many things not working out over time, you get practiced at it," Murphy said. "If I crashed and burned, I crashed and burned."

At some point in 2006 _ getting precise answers out of Murphy can be as hard as finding salt-free french fries at McDonald's _ former comedy partner Drath asked Murphy to join him on a project. It marked the third time Drath had asked Murphy to come aboard, and Murphy finally agreed.

Drath was working on a documentary, something _ somewhat surprisingly _ Murphy had never done before.

As for the subject matter of boxing, Murphy admitted to being only a casual fan.

But the story Drath, Murphy and the people at HBO Sports collaborated on turned out to be something big.

"The journey making this was quite exciting," he said, "just to be in the front seat of making a documentary."

Quite a gamble as well, he said.

Like Drath, Murphy put his money into the project.

"I was married to this," Murphy said. "With the financial part of it and being that far out on the wire, it was a big risk."

The 1983 fight between Resto and Collins was supposed to be a stepping stone for Collins, who came into the bout with a 14-0 record, including 11 KOs. Resto, a journeyman from the Bronx, had a 19-7-3 mark.

But Resto pounded Collins en route to a winning a unanimous, 10-round decision.

Following the fight, Collins' father and trainer _ Billy Collins Sr. _ grabbed Resto's gloves and seemed to notice something was amiss. Turns out, an ounce of the padding on both of Resto's eight-ounce gloves had been removed and no doubt contributed to the beating absorbed by Collins Jr.

The fight ended Collins' career and started a downward spiral that ended with him dying in a car crash seven months later at age 22. Following investigations into the removed padding by the police and the New York State Athletic Commission, Resto landed in prison as did his trainer, Panama Lewis. Both served 2 1/2-year sentences for assault, conspiracy and criminal possession of a deadly weapon. They also received lifetime bans from the sport.

"I've seen the fight three times I don't ever want to see it again," Murphy said of the brutal beating Collins endured.

A gruesome photo of Collins was taken the day after the fight; both of his eyes were black and swollen shut.

Resto's life, too, took a dramatic downward turn.

He returned to the Bronx after being released from prison, turned to drugs, watched as his wife and two children moved to Virginia and lived in the basement of a boxing gym for 10 years.

When first confronted by Drath early in the piece, Resto denied knowing anything was wrong with his gloves the night he beat Collins.

"It became a tale of redemption," Murphy said. "The only way for him to recover was he had to tell the truth."

Eventually, Resto owned up to knowing the gloves were tainted. He also said Lewis put plaster on his hand wraps that was so strong, he couldn't move his hands the entire fight. Resto then explained that Lewis broke apart asthma pills and put them into his water as a way of opening Resto's lungs.

Anyone who remembers the 1982 light welterweight title fight between Alexis Arguello and Aaron Pryor might find that interesting. Lewis worked Pryor's corner and before the 14th round, he instructed another corner man to get the bottle of water Lewis "mixed" before the fight. Pryor then knocked out Arguello in the 14th round.

Though Lewis was never punished, the trainer's reputation took a hit.

Late in the documentary, Resto accused Lewis of tampering with his glove and hand wraps. Lewis denied the allegations.

"Panama is the ultimate con artist," Murphy said of Lewis, who was paid for each of his three interviews in the piece.

The rest of the last half-hour of the movie consisted of a mea culpa tour by an apparently distraught Resto.

One of Resto's visits took him to Nashville, Tenn., where he wanted to apologize to Collins' parents.

"I had a camera on the street, my partner was on the porch with Luis and I didn't know what would happen," Murphy said. "In Tennessee, you might get your head blown off with a shot gun."

Collins' mother merely threatened to call the police.

In the spring of 2007, Murphy and Drath gave their piece to HBO. At the time, it was called, Cornered: A Life in the Ring.

"It's part of the creative experience," Murphy said of the editing done to the piece by HBO. "I actually had, we were in Virginia, a scene of Luis just crying in front of the camera, saying I'm a dirty fighter. I'm a dirty fighter.' I thought it was the most powerful part of the movie and they didn't use it."

Murphy called the experience "fascinating."

"When you're doing a documentary, it's not like you can say, OK, let's get another take on it.' It's not like that. You get one shot. It's like big-game hunting. You never know what you're going to get."

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Rob Centorani can be reached at rcentorani@thedailystar.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.

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