None of this accounted for the most devastating loss of all, the death of Stewart on the afternoon of Sept. 4, 1986. Stewart, 17, died instantly when the borrowed car he was driving swerved into an abutment of a small bridge at high speed and burst into flames. A companion, Lucie Diotte, died with him. There was no evidence of drinking. Stewart had not yet received his driver's license.
His death plunged the Hiltons into deep grief. "It's the worst thing that can happen to anybody," Davey Sr. says. "It took the heart out of us. We'll never get over it. A link in the chain was broken."
"I'd never seen my parents cry before," says Matthew. "I was just kind of in a daze. I think I still am. I miss him every day. There hasn't been a day when I haven't thought of him."
Davey Sr. had quit drinking nearly two years before Stewart's death, and the tragedy tested his resolve. "I heard there were bets all over town that I'd be drinking," Hilton says. "To say that I never thought of it, I'd be lying. I thought of it. Then I'd think to myself, Tomorrow will be the same thing, the rest of my life will be the same thing. It's not going to make the world any better." Hilton had quit drinking, finally. Today even the smell of liquor makes him ill.
More than once, and not just for their drinking, the Hiltons have been a focus of controversy in Montreal. Last year portions of a government report on organized crime and boxing were leaked to a member of the press. Subsequent articles alleged that Frank Cotroni, a reputed underworld boss in Montreal, had given the Hilton family money it needed to pay rent and other household bills.
"He never came to me just offering money," says Hilton, who has known Cotroni for 30 years. "I was out of work and I borrowed from him the way I would from any friend—and I consider him a friend. He's always liked boxing. We'd meet in a bar. I'd stop and say hi." The only thing Cotroni ever asked of him, Hilton says, was to quit drinking, because it was ruining his family. "At the time, I didn't listen," Hilton says.
The justice minister of Quebec, whose office had received the leaked report, concluded that there were no grounds for criminal charges against either the Hiltons or Cotroni.
In fact, whether because of Stewart's death or Matthew's success in the ring, the tempests in the Hiltons' lives seem to have stilled. Certainly Matthew's victories have inspired his brothers. They have given Alex, 22, cause to consider the wreck he had made of his own life. "When I sit in my cell at night, I think about my brothers, especially Stewart, and I think of my poor mom and poor dad, with me in here," Alex says. "I feel depressed at night. The stupidity of me! I have Matthew's pictures on the wall. I look at them every morning before I go to train. I say, 'If he can do it, I can do it.' It's about time I stop being a boy and become a man, to start to show the world I can fight."
After watching Matthew whip Callahan, Davey Jr., 23, announced he wanted to go to New York to train, away from the distractions of Canada. "Too many buddies in Montreal," he says. "I'm dying to come back. It's been long enough, partying and doing nothing."
As for Matthew, he is aiming to fight the junior middleweight champions—whoever they are—and unify that title next year. Then he plans to move up to middleweight, to go after that title.