The Case for Mancini? You decide
03.10.06 - By Ted Sares: Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini in the International Hall of Fame? Many have suggested this; others thought he was already in. Few have really dug into the facts. Let's do just that and then you weigh in.
Article posted on 04.10.2006
Record: 29 (23 KO's)) - 5. He had a stellar amateur career and in 1978 turned professional.
Style: He was short and very muscular and possessed a great left hook. His whirlwind punching style, though risky, was one in which he went straight at his opponent, punching non-stop and concentrating far more on offense than defense. He was an extremely good body puncher as well, and was always in great shape. But to categorize his style succinctly, he was an incoming brawler who enjoyed furious exchanges and would sometimes suffer the consequences. Nevertheless, he was an exciting type of fighter who gave the fans their monies worth.
Quality of Opposition: During his career, Ray beat some very good boxers, including former U.S. Champ Norman Goins, highly regarded Jose Louis Ramirez (for the NABF Lightweight Title) and Ernesto Espana. But his total number of fights is only 35 so quality is more significant than number of fights.
Title defenses: His first world title attempt came against the great Alexis Arguello and was a spectacular one. Mancini gave Arguello considerable trouble, but the champion used his great experience to his advantage, took control and then took out "Boom Boom" savagely in the the 14th round. The fight was selected by many magazines as one of the more spectacular bouts of the 80's.
Six months later, he challenged the new world champion, Arturo Frias (24-1 coming in), for the world lightweight title. Frias stunned Mancini early in round one and had him momentarily wobbly and bleeding from his eyebrow, but Mancini stormed back with a fury and dropped the champion with a wild combination. Mancini the proceeded to capture the title by trapping Frias against the ropes and after many unanswered blows, forced the referee to halt the fight. Ray was recorded as having thrown 33 punches in 22 seconds during a battle that could only be compared to a cock fight.
He defended the title four times, including a brutal 14th round knockout over South Korean warrior Duk-Koo Kim (17-1-1 at the time) after which Kim went into a coma and tragically died of brain injuries five days later. Much has been written about this fight, but insofar as it relates to Mancini's Hall of Fame prospects, its relevance here is not in point. Still, the fight led to studies that showed boxers take the most damage after the 12th round. Thus, the WBA shortened its championship matches from 15 to 12 rounds. As a tragic aside, Richard Green, the referee of that fight blamed himself for allowing the fight to go on and for Kim's death. He took his own life a few month's later as did Kim's mother.
After working his way though the emotional guilt and depression that followed this tragedy, he came back to beat British champion George Feeney (16-7 coming in), Orlando Romero, Johnny Torres (11-11 coming in) and then defended against two-time world champion (but shop worn) Bobby Chacon, 52-6-1 at the time, and easily beat him in three rounds. This would prove to be his last moment in the sun.
He would then lose the title by upset stoppage to a then unknown Livingston Bramble, 20-1-1, in 1984 but not before giving an all out effort, the result of which was an overnight stay at a hospital and over 70 stitches to close cuts around his eye. The Mancini camp had badly underestimated the colorful Virgin Islander. Bramble's non stop offensive and sharp punches turned "Boom Boom's" face into a hideous and bloody mess. This upset would have implications for boxing since Mancini, a real life "Italian Stallion," was a major attraction at the time. Bramble not only upset Mancini, he also upset the apple cart of many boxing people who thought they could capitalize on Ray's popularity and make serious money on his future matches. However, It was not to be.
In 1985, Mancini lost a rematch to Bramble, then 22-1-1, via a close decision (one in which I actually thought he may have won). This tough loss, coupled with his constant struggle to make weight, caused him to retire. However, like many others who can't stay away, he returned twice more first losing a close but unanimous decision to Hector Camacho in 1989 and then losing to Greg Haugen in 1992 by a decisive, head snapping KO in 7. This ill advised fight was not unlike Sugar Ray Leonard's fight with Hector Camacho. After this beating, Ray Mancini retired for good.
On a happier note, in 2005, The World Boxing Hall Of Fame in Los Angeles, CA, enshrined Youngstown, Ohio's own Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini along with bantamweight titleholders Jeff Chandler and Alfonso Zamora. Also, inducted was 60's middleweight contender Joey Archer. Teddy Atlas and Gwen Adair were enshrined in the expanded category. The affable Mancini is now working and living happily on the West Coast with his family, ring earnings and health intact. One of those happy endings if you will.
But wait. This article is about "Boom Boom's" prospects for induction into the International Hall of Fame in Cannastota, NY. And in that connection, let's pose some questions:
Was a total of 34 fights enough, particularly when 20 arguably were against poor to fair opposition?
Was the overall caliber of opposition good enough? Bramble twice, Haugen (29-4 at the time), Camacho (33-0 at the time), Arguello (72-5 coming in), Ramirez (71-3 at the time), Ernesto Espana (35-4 coming in), Orlando Romero (30-0-1 coming in), Feeney, Chacon, Frias and then it goes downhill.
Was his championship win over Frias that compelling when you consider that Bobby Chacon beat Frias by TKO in 1985 even after Mancini had stopped a worn Chacon a year earlier?
Were his title defenses against top caliber people....Feeney, Romero,Torres, Chacon?
Should the fact that he lost his last four fights weigh significantly?
Could it be argued that Ray suffered only three legitimate losses: The Arguello fight, his first fight with Bramble and the sound beating he took from Haugen?
Should he have fought Harry Arroyo, the IBF Title holder and another tough fighter out of Youngstown, Ohio? Some have gone so far as to say Mancini was not even the best fighter in Youngstown.
Could it be argued that his career defining fight was actually a defeat to Alexis Arguello rather than his one round war with mediocre Arturo Frias?
There has always been a lot of melodrama associated with Mancini's career. The Kim tragedy, the thing about his winning the title for his dad, Lennie "Boom Boom" Mancini, who laid the ground work for young Ray's career, his struggles to make weight, his gameness, and so on. But this article is not about that; it's about Mancini's prospects for getting into the IHOF
What do you think?
Ted Sares can be reached at email@example.com
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