Born To Box: Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini
As the son of a prizefighter, International Boxing Hall of
Fame inductee ("Class of 2015") Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini was
born to box, and the Youngstown, Ohio fighter climbed to the
top of the sport's mountain, capturing the World Boxing
Association (WBA) lightweight title in 1982.
Mancini's father, the late Lenny "Boom Boom" Mancini, boxed
professionally from 1937 to 1947, compiling a 46-12-3 (16
KOs) pro record. Lenny was the No. 1 ranked lightweight in
the world in 1941 and considered a future world champion.
However, his dream was sadly shattered when he was wounded
during World War II. He returned to boxing after being
discharged, but his physical issues due to the wound
prevented him from fulfilling his once vast potential.
His son, Ray, took the mantle and ran with it to fame, glory
and notoriety as a world champion. He started boxing young
and had his first fight when he was 15 at the Junior
Olympics in Cleveland. Ray had thought that he would have to
wait until he turned 16, because that was the minimum age to
compete in the Golden Gloves.
"When I heard that I could enter (the Junior Olympics),"
Mancini remembered, "I pressured my father to let me go (to
Cleveland). A very close family friend was training some
guys in the next town over from us and he was taking some
fighters to the Junior Olympics. He said he'd take me there.
I won by first fight by first-round knockout and I wound up
winning the regional title. I went on to the Mid-West
Regional in Detroit and fought a local kid, Sammy Fuentes,
to go to the Nationals. He beat me by decision, but I gained
my first real lesson about boxing and life: experience is
everything. It was my sixth amateur fight and I was told
that Fuentes had more than 200. It did not deter me, in
fact, it made me hungrier to succeed."
Succeed he did, despite his aggressive style that best
suited the professional ranks much more than amateurs. He
won 43 of 50 amateur matches, capturing top honors in the
1977 Youngstown Golden Gloves and Northeastern Ohio Golden
Gloves. He also won the Northeast Ohio AAU Championship and
reached the quarterfinals of the 1978 National AAU
"I lost a close decision in the semifinals of the 1978
National Golden Gloves to two-time U.S. Olympian Davey
Armstrong," Mancini said. "I lost a decision to Anthony
Fletcher in the quarterfinals of the 1978 National AAU
Championships and once again in the championship final of
the Ohio State Fair. In my last amateur fight, I lost a bad
decision to defending National Champion Melvin Paul at the
1979 National Golden Gloves Tournament. (After that) I knew
I wasn't going to have another amateur fight and was going
to turn pro.
"I had more of a pro style when I fought in the amateurs.
Three rounds didn't benefit me. I never had a four-round
fight (as a pro). I started with six-rounders because, for
my style, a three-round amateur or a four-round pro fight
were pretty much the same for me. Six-rounders were more
beneficial to me and that was proven right away.
"I knew I wouldn't win any of the major amateur
championships because of my style. Along the way, though, I
beat some pretty good amateurs: Darryl Chambers, Memo
Arreola, Tim Christianson and Mark Chieverini. My amateur
career just made me even more hungry to win a World title as
His seek and destroy style made him an instant favorite as a
professional. "I had to be aggressive, as a fighter or on
the playing field when I played other sports, because of my
natural instincts," Mancini explained. "I couldn't sit back
and wait for things to happen; I had to try and make things
happen. I follow that thinking in my business life as well,
but much like the fight game, you have to known when to
attack and when to sit back and counter."
Mancini, who some called a little Rocky Marciano because of
the way he fought, turned pro October 18, 1979 in Struthers,
Ohio, stopping Phil Bowen in the opening round. Ray fought
15 times in his first year as a pro and extended his winning
streak to 19, before he challenged World Boxing Council
(WBC) lightweight World champion Alexis Arguello (67-5), who
won by way of a 14-round technical knockout, in a fight that
was dead even after 10 rounds. After the match, then future
Hall of Famer Arguello was quoted as saying: "I think my
heart is special, but his (Mancini) is bigger than I have.
Someday he will be champion."
Only seven months and three fights later, Mancini captured
the World Boxing Association (WBA) lightweight World title
way of a sensational first-round knockout of defending
champion Arturo Frias (24-1). Ray dedicated that fight to
his father, who was unable to become world champion, due to
the wounds he suffered in World War II.
Mancini finished his pro career with a 29-5 (23 KOs), which
included victories against world champions Bobby Chacon
(523-5-1), Ernesto Espana (35-4), Frias and Jose Luis
Ramirez (71-3), and all five of his losses were to world
champions - Arguello, Hector Camacho, Greg Haughen and
Livingstone Bramble (twice).
"Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini demonstrated the heart of a
champion throughout his career," said Chris Cugliari, USA
Boxing Alumni Director. "Even though his in-ring success is
primarily discussed at the professional level, the hunger to
learn and grow as an amateur is something that inspires
today's USA Boxing champions. He is another example of a USA
Boxing alumnus who experienced tremendous success resulting
from experiences and lessons from his amateur days."
Mancini is proud of his roots in Youngstown, which also
produced world pro boxing champions such as Harry Arroyo,
Jeff Lampkin, Greg Richardson and Kelly Pavlik.
"Growing up in Youngstown helped me tremendously as a
fighter," Mancini talked about his hometown. "We all knew
what a tough town it was and is and we knew the stories of
all the fighters, amateur and pro, who had left a mark
before us. Growing up there, football and boxing were the
two sports everybody talked about. If you left a mark in
either one, people still talked about you long after you're
playing, or fight days were over. So, to succeed in a town
like Youngstown, was a tremendous accomplishment in itself."
The ultra-popular Mancini is one of the few boxers to have
had a movie ("Heart of a Champion: The Ray Mancini Story)"),
song ("Boom Boom Mancini" by Warren Zevon) and book ("The
Good Son: The Life of Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini by Mark
Kriegel) about him.
Today, the 59-year-old Mancini still resides in Youngstown,
and he remains involved in boxing as a color commentator for
PBC on Fox. He's also been a member of the Ohio Boxing
Commission for the last three years. "I'm involved (in
boxing) as close as I want to be and can still be a fan," he
admitted. "What I miss most about the fight game is
challenging myself mentally and emotionally, and to be able
to "get up" and challenge myself physically on a daily
basis. To stand in front of another man before the fight,
right in the center of the ring, and say to myself, 'Either
you're getting carried out of here tonight or I am, but one
of us is getting carried out of here tonight,' was my
mentality. I miss that challenge!"
Looking back at his boxing career, Mancini maintains that he
wouldn't change a thing. "I can't say I would do anything
different, in retrospect, because I won the World title,
successfully defended it four times, made good money and
retired healthy," Mancini concluded. "People still remember
and talk about my fights and I made it into the
International Boxing Hall of Fame, the ultimate shrine for
fighters. So, why would I want to have done anything