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Fight to get boxing legend's statue

Seven On Your Side
November 16, 2012 7:58:20 PM PST
He was a real-life Rocky, just 90 miles north of New York City.

He was a boxer who rose up from humble beginnings to become world champion.

But now a year after his tragic death, his hometown friends are fighting a battle of their own, trying to get a statue of the man called "The Hammer" delivered to his hometown.

"He was magic, believe me when I tell you that's the truth," said Joe Lalima, Friends of Billy Costello.

Barber Joe Lalima's talking about his dear friend, and Kingston, New York's favorite son, boxer Billy Costello.

But after four title defenses, the boxer did something extraordinary.

He retired, came back to Kingston, and started a boxing gym just for kids.

"He more than gave back. He gave his life to Kingston," Lalima said.

Then at just 55, the champ lost his final bout to lung cancer.

"He is wearing a big crown now," Lalima said.

Shortly before Billy's death, Joe Lalima along with Billy's dad started raising money to honor him with a statue.

"He deserved it. He brought a lot to Kingston. He did a lot for people here," said Mr. Costello, Billy's dad.

They gave $15,000 to local monument company, but more than 2 years later still had nothing to show for their money.

"The bottom line is we've been waiting for quite some time and haven't gotten anything," Lalima said.

The contract says the statue will be delivered a year after the clay model was approved.

But after seeing a photo of the work in progress Billy's dad and the committee wanted changes.

"Because it looked nothing like him at all," Costello said.

Another obstacle was that the statue was being made and shipped from China.

After more than a year of waiting, the committee hired a lawyer and demanded a refund, but still nothing got done.

"Either give us our money or give us our statue," Lalima said.

This summer, 7 On Your Side threw its hat in the ring.

Watson Memorials said the statue was still in production and couldn't be delivered until December, but then the fight was called early.

"7 On Your Side kicked them in the head, and made them do their job like they were supposed to do from the jump," Lalima said.

There in granite, finally on the pedestal he deserves, the King of Kingston's legacy is complete, for the grandson he never met and the entire world to see.

"Thanks to you people, thank you very much," Lalima said.

CONNECT WITH NINA PINEDA AND 7 ON YOUR SIDE


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