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Associated Press, Published June 30 2011

Billy Costello, ex-boxing champ, dies of cancer at 55

KINGSTON, N.Y. — Former World Boxing Council light welterweight champion Billy Costello, winner of his first 30 professional fights, has died of lung cancer. He was 55.

Costello died Wednesday at a hospital in his hometown, Kingston, N.Y., longtime friend Joe LaLima said Thursday.

Costello was 40-2 over a 20-year career that began in 1979. He won the WBC light welterweight championship in 1984 with a 10th-round technical knockout of Bruce Curry, then defended the title three times over the next year.

Costello lost the title to "Lightning" Lonnie Smith in an eighth-round technical knockout in 1985. His only other loss as a pro came to Alexis Arguello in 1986.

After retiring from fighting, he worked in building and road construction, as a boxing judge and with young people in his hometown.

LaLima said Costello could afford to live anywhere after his career, but stayed in Kingston.

"He chose to buy a home in his neighborhood, where he was needed to help kids stay straight," said LaLima, a friend of Costello's father who had known the fighter since he was a child.

Costello spent recent years helping run the city Police Athletic League boxing club, which sometimes hosts bouts in a neighborhood gym named for him.

LaLima said a pedestal and plaque are already in place and the money has been raised to put a 6-foot-tall statue of Costello at one of the main streets leading into the city.

There was no immediate information on funeral arrangements.