What to do tonight: Get to know Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini's boxing ring world
Lightweight boxing champion Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini receives a Pirates jersey from former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner in 1982 at Three Rivers Stadium.
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Former lightweight boxing champ Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini fought his way out of Youngstown, Ohio, and into the limelight in the early 1980s.
Tonight, he will be in town to share his story.
Known for his intense fighting style, Mr. Mancini, 51, was a fan favorite, retiring with a 29-5 record. Most of his wins were by knockout, and most of his losses were close and controversial.
But one of those victories, a 1982 match at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, stands out because it resulted in the death of his opponent, 23-year-old South Korean Duk Koo Kim.
Mark Kriegel, a sportswriter from New York, was attracted to Mr. Mancini's story and set out to make it part of his "trilogy" about famous athletes with roots in our region.
"Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls. Pete Maravich is from Aliquippa. And Ray is from Youngstown," he said this afternoon from his Downtown hotel room. "And the mill town is an important presence in each of their stories."
The book is "The Good Son: The Life of Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini." Mr. Kriegel and Mr. Mancini will be meeting readers and signing copies of the book at the Barnes & Noble at the Waterfront in Homestead.
"This wasn't an obvious book, but it wouldn't leave me alone," said Mr. Kriegel, who described the work as "the story of fathers and sons."
"This was a very, very personal book for me."
Mr. Mancini said it was that connection with the author that convinced him to cooperate.
"There's been so many things written about me over the years, but this is the first book I've ever done," Mr. Mancini said. "When I was fighting, people wanted to do a book, and I would say, 'I'm only 27 years old. I haven't even lived yet. What am I gonna say? Let me live a little bit. ...???I???m one of these guys, I go into a bookstore and I see a book on LeBron James ??? and don???t get me wrong, he???s a wonderful athlete. I???m just using him as an example. But at 20-something years old, what life has he lived?
"Then, when I got older and retired, I was still being approached [by authors] years later. I was like, 'Who's gonna care now?' ... What can be told that hasn't been told? No false modesty. What can I say?"
Mr. Kriegel convinced him he had a story worth telling.
Mr. Mancini said he was looking forward to returning to Pittsburgh.
???When I was fighting, places like Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, they couldn???t compete with the casinos,??? he said. ???Now, with pay-per-view, if I was fighting now, I???d be fighting in places like Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
"Growing up in Youngstown, you know it's split. Half the town is Steelers and Bucs fans, and half the town is Brownies and Tribe. Me, growing up, I was a Yankees fan, because my father used to tell me stories about Joe DiMaggio."
But he has a soft spot for the Pirates.
"Oh, Willie Stargell and them guys back in the day, they treated me great," he said, recalling the Pirates of the early 1980s. "I used to go down and have batting practice with them. Dave Parker, Bill Madlock -- the 'Mad Dog.' It was a great time, and the Pirates were great. Chuck Tanner, he was the best. I still have that jersey he gave me."
I promised Mr. Mancini I wouldn't reveal that he also is an Oakland Raiders fan, so we won't go there.
Sports is a great catalyst for bringing people together. But boxing is unique, Mr. Mancini said.
We don???t bond like the other athletes. There is a fraternity because there aren???t many of us.
???Fighters don???t really hang out together,??? he said. ???Part of that is we???re [in] an individual sport. And when you fight, there???s no personal animosity, but you aren???t exactly friends. ???And then there are egos. Every athlete has an ego, but none more so than fighters. Sometimes it???s rough for guys to be around each other.???
Asked about his popularity, Mr. Mancini said it's a hard thing to explain.
"It's like, if you meet two pretty girls, why are you attracted to one woman and not another? How can you explain that?" he said.
"It's the same thing with the public. I'm very flattered, very honored that people followed my career and were fans of mine. But there's a lot of good fighters.
"For whatever reason, maybe it was my style. It was symbolic of the hard-working people here. They take shots, they give shots. They're bigger, harder, stronger. I like to think I was a blue-collar fighter. I gave an honest day's work and came out and gave the people their money's worth.
"It also helped that I was a winning fighter."
The author and the boxer -- making their first joint appearance at a bookstore -- will be in their respective corners, so to speak, at 7 p.m.
First Published September 25, 2012 3:32 pm