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'Boom-Boom' back in spotlight Friday night at DeYor

Published: Sat, September 29, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.




The most powerful moment of Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini’s wonderful documentary “The Good Son” comes in the final minutes, when a 29-year-old South Korean named Jiwan Kim travels to Santa Monica, Calif., to have dinner with the man who killed his father.

Nearly 30 years earlier, Duk Koo Kim, had collapsed into a coma after a 14th-round knockout at the hands of Mancini. Kim died four days later, leaving behind a fiancee, Young Mee, who was two months’ pregnant with Jiwan, who didn’t discover his father was dead until he was 9.

In that moving scene, Jiwan confesses that, when he first watched the fight, he felt some hatred toward Mancini. But, speaking in halting English, he says, “I think it was not your fault.”

“Thank you,” Mancini says. “Thank you for coming to America.”

“I know what I said in the doc [documentary] about Ray needing Jiwan’s blessing, and I think that’s true,” said author Mark Kriegel, who wrote the book that the documentary is based on. “But the more I thought about it, I think that it was Jiwan that needed the meeting and needed to bless Ray.

“In a certain way, it was a punch Ray was courageous enough to take.”

Mancini, the former lightweight champion from Youngstown, joined Kriegel at the DeYor on Friday night to show the documentary to an invite-only crowd of 600. Like the book, the 90-minute documentary is tremendous, taking Mancini’s dramatic story and, as Mancini said, turning it into art.

The movie, which will be officially released Nov. 13 — the 30-year anniversary of the Kim fight, already has been accepted at a handful of film festivals, and the producers plan to submit it to the Sundance Film Festival.

Like ESPN’s 2007 documentary “Triumph and Tragedy,” the movie covers the Kim fight in depth. Unlike that documentary, it tells Mancini’s complete story, focusing heavily on his father, the original “Boom Boom,” his hometown and his upbringing.

In the Q&A session after Friday night’s viewing, Mancini joked that everyone needed to get their questions out, “because this is it. This is the last of it.” But it’s clear from the past few days that Youngstown isn’t done with Mancini. He and Kriegel stayed at Barnes & Noble until 2:30 a.m. Friday signing books. That left Kriegel, who makes his living with words, nearly speechless.

“At one point, I was told that people in the back [of the line] were getting upset so they told me to make an announcement that if we only signed the names it would go so much faster,” said Kriegel. “So I do it and then Ray goes, ‘No, I’m signing the whole way.’ I’m like, ‘What do you make me the bad guy for?’

“I never imagined people tolerating that kind of wait for a book.”

Added Mancini, “As long as people were waiting, I wasn’t going anywhere.”

Tank DiCioccio, who grew up across the street from Mancini on the South Side and who is featured in the book and the documentary, believes Mancini’s popularity stems both from his story and his personality.

“He’s a good dude, man,” DiCioccio said. “He’s always been a good dude. He’s a one-of-a-kind person who’s always treated people the way they wanted to be treated.”

Chuck Fagan — who became Mancini’s de facto older brother after Mancini’s real older brother, Lenny, was killed on Valentine’s Day, 1981 — said it more simply.

“I don’t know what ‘it’ is, but Ray always had it,” Fagan said.

DiCioccio never imagined he would still be talking about Mancini’s career 30 years later, but he said he also never imagined people like Frank Sinatra and Willie Stargell and Sonny Bono would want to meet the kid who grew up at 807 Cambridge Avenue.

“You gotta understand — we were young kids, 20, 21 years old, and we were just in awe of the people who wanted to meet Ray,” DiCioccio. “We just couldn’t believe it.

“Not too many people command that type of love from people. I think people respected the way he went about his business. The way he fought resembled this town. Always going forward, banging, banging, banging. Taking shots, giving shots. You get knocked down, you get up.

“That may sound cliche, but it’s the truth.”

Mancini left Youngstown for New York at age 18 and has spent most of his adult life in Los Angeles, but he admits he’s never left Youngstown, any more than Youngstown left him.

When asked what he thinks of being remembered 30 years later, Mancini smiled and said, “Oh, man, it beats the alternative.”

“I can’t explain it,” he said. “I’m very blessed.”

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