Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini was in Los Angeles last week to provide the ringside analysis for a Premier Boxing Champions event that featured Leo Santa Cruz, the exciting featherweight, appearing and winning in prime time on Fox.
Boom Boom will be in Minneapolis as the analyst for Saturday night’s Premier card at the Minneapolis Armory. The main event has Anthony Dirrell and Avni Yildirim meeting for the WBC’s vacant super middleweight title. And, for the third time, welterweight contender Jamal James of Minneapolis will be featured on a Premier card at the Armory, facing Janer Gonzalez, a Colombian with a 19-1-1 record.
Mancini was on the phone from L.A., and he was asked about “The Good Son,” Mark Kriegel’s book written in 2012 about Boom Boom’s life. Mancini details the darkest events of his life, the most famous of which was the death of opponent Duk Koo Kim on Nov. 13, 1982.
Mancini, only 21, was defending his WBA lightweight title for the second time. The fight was televised on CBS in the bright afternoon of the Caesars Palace outdoor ring in Las Vegas. The traditional distance for title fights then was 15 rounds, and this went to the 14th before Mancini stopped Kim on a TKO.
Moments after the fight, Kim collapsed, fell into a coma and died four days later. Mancini went to the funeral in South Korea. He had been hit with another traumatic blow — the death of his brother Lenny — 21 months earlier and fell into a depression after Kim’s death.
Lenny was 5½ years older than Ray, and he died from an accidental gunshot from a girlfriend. In this phone call, Mancini said:
“I was thinking about Lenny today because this is the anniversary — Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 1981. He was 25, and his girlfriend was 17. There was a gun around and an accidental shooting.
“The people who watched him in the ring as an amateur say that Lenny had more talent than me, and they’re right. He was a handsome, charming son of a gun and the ladies loved him. Lenny had it all, but he also had wiseguy friends. Lenny just lacked discipline.”
Thus, younger brother Ray — “The Good Son.”
The Mancinis came from the hard-nosed city of what turned into dying industry — Youngstown, Ohio. The original “Boom Boom” was the father, Lenny Sr., a lightweight contender before he entered World War II and was wounded. He resumed his career after the war but was not the same and retired in 1947.
“I’ve only seen a 10-second snippet of one of my dad’s fights, but he got me into boxing as a young kid. … He was my inspiration,” Mancini said.
What started as an effort to please his father became an effort to please the audience, in the arena and later on TV.
“I wanted to give the fans an exciting fight,” he said. “That’s why I fought the style — aggressive, constant action. Thirty-two fights in 5½ years with that style, that’s why I retired early.”
Premier Boxing Champions signed a four-year contract with Fox last September, with cards regularly in prime time on the main network and also FS1 (the location of Saturday’s card here). Mancini, soon to be 58, was hired as an analyst to team with Chris Myers.
“I’ve been saying it for a few years: What boxing has to do to get more popular again than UFC is to get good fights back on network TV,’’ Mancini said. “[Promoter] Al Haymon and Premier have the best group of boxers, and what I admire most is they are putting the best fighters in the ring against each other.
“I worked to get a fight against Alexis Arguello in October 1981. I was a 20-year-old kid and 20-0, and I knew that, as tall as Alexis was, as outstanding as he was, it was going to be very tough fight for me. But I also knew it would be a great fight, a fight that people would talk about for years. It’s a proud memory for me, even though Alexis won a great fight in the 14th round.
“That’s what makes Premier teaming with Fox the best thing to happen to boxing in 30 years. Televising the best fighters against each other, so the people in the city, the hard-life people that always have been the heart of boxing, will be able to see them. … That’s what will make boxing big again.”