Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and was a childhood friend of University of Oklahoma football coaches Bob and Mike Stoops.
His father was Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini who was a top-ranked contender in the 1940s but whose title hopes were dashed when he was wounded in World War II.
In May 1982, Ray Mancini won the World Boxing Association lightweight belt, a title he held for two years. In November 1982, Mancini defended his title against Korean Duk-Koo Kim. Mancini won on a knockout in the 14th round and Kim never regained consciousness
Kim's mother and the fight referee later committed suicide. Some say Mancini was never the same fighter after that.
Mancini will be in Oklahoma City Thursday to attend the OKC Charity Fight Night.
Where I grew up, Bobby (Stoops) lived the next street down. I grew up with him and his brothers. I've known them my whole life. (Youngstown) was a hotbed for high school sports, not only football, but others. High school football is like a religion over there, similar to Oklahoma and Texas.
Bobby's father, Mr. (Ron) Stoops, was a wonderful, wonderful baseball player. I remember seeing him when we were kids. We used to go watch him play. And then of course, Mr. Stoops was my baseball coach.
I played all sports — baseball, basketball and football — but I knew I wanted to be a professional fighter from Day 1. Playing football was gonna be a high school thing and I loved it, but I gave it up.
I still had basketball, but eventually I had to give that up (because of boxing). So I just focused on baseball. Mr. Stoops was my baseball coach. He used to say, ‘Look Ray, I know fighting is what you want to do, but you can always play for me.' I was a pretty good baseball player.
Mr. Stoops came to me and said ‘Ray, so you wanna be a fighter?' And I said, ‘Yes sir, that's what I wanna be. He says, ‘Well you be the best you can be.' He says, “You bring us back that championship, I said, ‘Mr. Stoops, that's what I'm gonna do.'
It's important for high school students to have people believing in you like that. When I gave up football, all I heard from the other coaches was ‘Give up football? For what? You're gonna be a fighter? For what? You can't go nowhere as a fighter. At least with football you can get a scholarship.'
They didn't understand the big picture. Mr. Stoops understood. He saw my dedication and he saw I was working at it and he said, ‘You go and get that championship.' I tell people how important it was for me at that time for a coach to look at me and understand what I wanted to do and give me the encouragement to do it. I tell Bob, I'll always, always love his father for that.
My father has been my influence from Day 1. He was everything I wanted to be as a man and as a father. People ask me, ‘If you weren't a fighter, what would you be?' I say I can't answer that. There's nothing else I wanted to be.
I wanted to be a fighter and world champion for my father. My father's the one who tried to talking me out of it. When I wanted to turn pro, he said ‘Raymond, it's a painful life and a lonely life. I had to fight depression. I had to fight, but you don't have to fight. You have so many opportunities.' I had academic as well as athletic scholarships to go to college. I had a professional baseball offer when I was 18. I wanted to turn pro (in boxing).
I was like 8, 9, 10 years old and I used to dream about being a world champion. I would go to bed and see myself carrying the belt over my head, my arms raised. I would dream that every night.
Fighters are born, not made. You are either born with the fighting spirit, or you're not.
I wanted to win the world title for my father. My father got drafted in January 1944. He had already beaten the champion in a nontitle fight but never got the opportunity (for a title fight). He never got that chance to fight for it. It was heartbreaking.
He never talked bad about it because he wanted to defend his country. I always heard about how my father could've been, would've been, should've been a world champion. That's why I wanted to win the world title for him. That's the only reason I became a fighter.
He was hit by mortar shell (in the war) and was basically left for dead. Eventually, one of his comrades picked him up and carried him to safety. He lost so much blood, they didn't think he'd live, and they were certain he'd never walk, because there was so much shrapnel in his body. He was certain he'd never fight, but he eventually came back to fight. He still beat some good guys, but he never got that opportunity (for a title fight).
My father was given that name (Boom Boom) in 1939 by a commentator in Brooklyn. This guy said my father keeps throwing punches all the time. Boom, boom, all the time. I was Boom Boom before I was a fighter. I was Baby Boom Boom. It stuck with me since day one.
The high point of my career was winning the world title. There's nothing that could beat that. I accomplished my lifelong dream. To do that was euphoric. You can't describe it. Next to that, it was my first title defense in (Warren) Ohio in front of 20,000 people. At that time in 1982, we were at 28 percent unemployment and for the people to come out and support me like they did, it was incredible.
I made peace with the death of the Korean fighter relatively quickly. My whole life I've been able to deal with things. I meet them head on and then I get past them.
It was a very difficult time. I was very popular on TV at the time. We had numerous commercial activities in the works, but after that, everything went away. I was hurt, but of course I understand now.
Of course, you go through a depression. I didn't go through anything where I couldn't get out of bed. I just had a sadness and a heavy heart for a long time. You get through that as long as you are moving forward. You have to do that.
People say I fought differently after that. Even people in my camp said that. I don't know. I knocked other guys out when I had them hurt. I didn't back off. I still fought with the same intensity.
Before that fight, I fought for righteous reasons. I wanted to win for my father and my city. After that fight, there was nothing righteous about it for me. It took the love away for me. I didn't have the passion for it. That's the main difference. I still prepared hard and did everything I was supposed to do but I questioned things that I never did before.
A fighter of my style is not made for a long career. The one thing I'm most proud of is that I can still spell fight. I say that jokingly because so many guys can't. You got to know when to shut it down.
Network television has to get back into the game (of boxing). Without network television, (boxing) will never return (to the popularity it once had). With pay per view, the audience has gone way down.
On a regular basis, MMA is kicking boxing's behind. But for the world title fights, boxing will always be No 1.
I've never been to Oklahoma before. Who would've thought that they'd become the superpower of basketball? Who would've thunk that? Me and my sons are big fans of OKC. I love (Russell) Westbrook, and (Kevin) Durant is the biggest player in the game right now. To see what these guys are doing is tremendous.
I'm in the entertainment business now, focusing on producing. I've been out here going on 28 years. I'm producing and acting. I've done over 18 films. I just recently got done doing a play, some stage work, which I really enjoy, but mainly focusing on my producing.
I enjoy acting. I enjoy producing more. I play street guys because I am a street guy. You stick with what you know but you don't wanna say that's all you do. It's always interesting to play street guys because these characters are colorful. I grew up a street guy and you always got to stick to what you know.