By Joe Scalzo
By the time Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini fought Livingston Bramble the first time in June of 1984, he had a 29-1 record and, not surprisingly, felt he was good enough to beat Bramble even if he wasn’t 100 percent.
“I wasn’t healthy,” Mancini said in an interview a few weeks ago. “My manager was gonna call off the fight and I ranted and raved like a spoiled child.
“I said, ‘I can beat this guy with what I got.’ ”
Had Mancini fought that bout under the current 12-round restriction, he would have been right.
Unfortunately, it was a 15-round bout, and Mancini lost by TKO in the 14th.
“I was winning the fight, but I was slapping him to death; I couldn’t hurt him,” said Mancini, who lost his next three bouts and finished with a career mark of 29-5. “I was a dead man walking. I had no energy, no nothing.
“It wound up costing me.”
Winning or losing in boxing can often come down to whether or not the fighter is in peak condition on fight night. Overtraining leaves a fighter weary, while undertraining leaves him out of shape.
It’s a difficult balance.
“You have to be perfect that day,” said Mancini. “It’s an art form.”
Mancini believes overtraining — and, to some extent, overconfidence —contributed to Kelly Pavlik’s loss to Bernard Hopkins in September. When Pavlik injured his elbow in a sparring session in the weeks leading up to the bout, he should have postponed the fight and let it heal, Mancini said.
Instead, Pavlik tried to train through it — often missing sparring sessions and workouts when the elbow bothered him —and, consequently, he wasn’t sharp against Hopkins.
It was a learning experience for Pavlik, who has adjusted his training for his upcoming middleweight bout with Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio. Pavlik has always been known for his brutal training regimen that featured exercises such as tossing tires, swinging a sledgehammer into a heavy bag and pushing vehicles across parking lots.
But he’s paying closer attention to his body this time, making sure to give his body a chance to recover from his tougher workouts so his muscles can rebuild and come back stronger.
Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs) enters the Rubio bout as a big favorite and Mancini thinks the opponent is perfect for the Ghost.
“He’s a sacrificial lamb,” Mancini said of Rubio. “Once he [Pavlik] wins, it’ll be all lovey-dovey cozy again.”
Rubio (43-4-1, 37 KOs) has a similar style to Pavlik, preferring to stay in front of his opponent and exchange blows.
While Mancini expects Pavlik to win, he believes Rubio is capable of pulling off an upset.
“This kid is training in the mountains of Mexico, 8,000 feet above sea level, killing himself,” Mancini said. “If he wins, it changes his life. He’s not just fighting for himself but for his country.
“Kelly is fighting for his family and for Youngstown, but he’s not fighting for the United States. He’s not even fighting for Ohio. Rubio is fighting for a whole nation and he understands that obligation. Kelly is gonna get his [Rubio’s] best, no matter what.”
Mancini plans to fly into Youngstown on Feb. 20 to attend both the weigh-in and the fight, playing the part of boxing celebrity as only he can .
“I’ll be available to shake hands, kiss babies, take pictures ... whatever they need,” he said, chuckling. “It’s the easiest part of the job.”