Documentary offers closure for boxing legend

Capital News sat down with Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini the day before The Good Son premiered in West Kelowna.

Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini answers audience questions after the premiere screening of The Good Son: A documentary about his life. Director Jesse James Miller (right) also attended the event at Landmark Cinemas in West Kelowna.

Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini glances out a window of the Hotel Eldorado lounge, commenting favourably on the view of Okanagan Lake.

Although it’s a dreary day with rain clouds looming, he seems to see past the weather and appreciate an area he hadn’t previously visited.

Mancini is in town for the premiere screening of a documentary chronicling his life and boxing career. The Good Son, partly based on Mark Kriegel’s book of the same name, illustrates Mancini’s upbringing in Youngstown, Ohio, his relationship with his father, his journey to become lightweight champion of the world and his life after a tragic bout against South Korean boxer Duk-koo Kim.

One of the main reasons Mancini agreed to dig into his haunted past—both for the book and the documentary—is because both projects focus on a bigger story than just the Kim fight.

The Good Son also allowed Mancini to address questions that have followed him 30 years after the fight.

In November 1982, Mancini was on top of the boxing world. The 24-1 boxer was about to defend his lightweight title against a confident Kim in front of Frank Sinatra, Bill Cosby, Robert Goulet and thousands of others in glitzy Las Vegas.

The fight was a sensational spectacle; Kim surprised many with his ability to keep up with the champion and land several key punches.

As the match progressed, Mancini seemed to get the upper hand: He landed 44 consecutive punches in the 13th round.

But Kim refused to give up and continued to fight back.

Finally, in the 14th round, Mancini landed the knockout blow.

“The fight itself was a great fight,” says Mancini.

“But the outcome, there was nothing good about that.”

Kim died five days later from brain injuries suffered during the bout.

The event put a dark cloud over the sport and had a lasting impact on Kim’s family and Mancini’s career.

Kim’s grieving mother committed suicide months after the death of her son; his fiancee, Young-mi Lee, was devastated. Pregnant with his child, she feared life without a husband and her son’s life without a father.

Mancini’s popularity dropped as did his endorsements and sponsorship deals.

He went on to box in a few more matches throughout his career, but he would never regain the passion he once had for the sport.

“I lost the love for it. I fought for righteous reasons at the beginning: To be the world champion for my father, to be a good representative of my city of Youngstown, Ohio, to be the best champion for boxing I could be.

“After the fight, there was nothing righteous about it for me—it took all the love, all the passion, all the goodness away from me.”

Perhaps the most emotional scene in The Good Son takes place when Young-mi Lee and her son, Jiwan, fly to Los Angeles to meet Mancini and his family for the first time.

“That was important for Jiwan and it was important for me and my children…I wanted him to meet the last man who was in the ring with his father,” says Mancini.

“I was apprehensive of course, but I was more nervous about meeting his mother. This is the woman who was planning on spending the rest of her life with (Kim).

“That was rough, but it was very healing for me, and I believe for her.”

Several viewers teared up during this scene at Saturday night’s premiere of the film in West Kelowna. As the film ended and the credits rolled, the audience stood to applaud the boxing legend and the filmmakers who told his story.

Near the end of the film, while staring at the ocean, Mancini says life is short and talks about how, over time, he has been able to move on and enjoy his.

After the interview he glances out the Hotel Eldorado window once again and sips a glass of Mission Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, then turns to director Jesse James Miller and tells him how beautiful Kelowna is.

It’s clear he’s a man of his word.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com