Mark Kriegel has followed his insightful biography of Pete Maravich with a figure, if not as iconic, than probably at least equally misunderstood.
Boom-Boom Mancini became a media sensation in the early 1980's after the networks blared his story of following his fathers unrequited dream of a World Championship belt. His father, Lenny, had climbed up the contention ladder in the 1940's with a swarming, never say die style. His dream was punctured while fighting in World War II.
Ray was his youngest son, and fought with the same determined frenzy. A string of wins over solid contenders put him in line to meet the charismatic Alexis Arguello. Mancini acquitted himself well, but was overcome by Arguello's well honed skills and deep heart.
Yet, in the days of split titles, Mancini secured a shot of the fractional lightweight title in his very next fight. The one round it lasted was spectacular, and Boom-Boom became a made for TV fighter. Took punishment, dished it out. America loves Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots, and Mancini manufactured this type of fight. And, the climax was yet to come.
After two title defenses, Mancini met unknown Korean Duk Koo Kim, who had somehow been elevated to number one contender under the corruption of the Alphabet Soup Boxing Sanctioning bodies. Most everyone believed he was being led to slaughter, and yet Kim believed in his own will, and tried to out Mancini Boom-Boom. In a fight for the ages, the two fighters stood toe to toe and took turns hurting each other. In the Fourteenth round, Kim went down. He got up, and then lay prostate on the canvas. He died several days later.
The twenty one year old Mancini was a changed man, and his boxing edge was forever duller.
How he reconciled his adulthood is every bit as interesting as his fight career, and this is what sets this boxing bio apart from others. This is a story in full. Part heroic, and part tragic.
I look forward to Mr. Kriegel's next offering.