RAY “BOOM BOOM” MANCINI, the fan-friendly former lightweight titlist, has got a new job. Mancini has been an actor and movie producer since retiring and after a 29-5 pro career that peaked with his reign as WBA belt-holder between 1982 and 1984.
Now 61, Mancini, who made four successful title defences, has got the job of hosting Excelsior Sporting Club shows in the UK. The venture is the idea of Midlands businessman Scott Murray.
He is known for bringing many former champions to his Bar Sport venue in Cannock and last year, he reunited Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney for a UK tour to mark the 40th anniversary of their heavyweight title clash in Las Vegas.
Murray has now taken out a promoter’s license and set up Excelsior Sporting Club, describing his new venture as “an exclusive club that will give members a top quality night’s entertainment.”
The first of four shows Murray has booked for this year is at Bar Sport on Thursday, March 30.
Steve Bunce and Richie Woodhall will be at every show, along with Mancini, there’s the promise of a special guest and there will be four pro fights.
“I was in Miami last year when Daniel Dubois fought Trevor Bryan and (promoter) Don King had Ray hosting the night,” said Murray.
“I thought he was really good and I’ve become good friends with Ray because I’ve brought him over numerous times to our venue and around the UK.”
Murray says Mancini intends to use his connections to bring fighters from the States to fight on his shows.
Murray has plans to take his black-tie nights around the country having made Bar Sport his base for his ‘Legends Nights’ and amateur shows. There are five amateur club shows pencilled in for the Staffordshire venue in March and in the past, Bar Sport has hosted international matches.
Adam Azim, Sam Hickey and Ioan Croft all boxed there and in November, 2019, Delicious Orie outpointed Nick Campbell in an England-Scotland match.
Now a 55-year-old father of four, Murray, whose sons George, Henry and Charles box for Wolverhampton ABC, had 108 amateur bouts himself between the ages of 14 and 28, many of them in the super-heavyweight division.
“I boxed three times in a week a few times,” he said, “and even three times on the same night. That was the way it was in those days.”
Highlights for Murray include a pair of wins over ABA finalist Dean Redmond and his seven battles with the Ledington twins, Andy and Darren, from Wednesbury ABC. Both twins boxed for England – and Murray beat them both.
Murray made headlines in Boxing News after one of his best wins was controversially scrubbed from the record books.
“Bran Summers was knocking everyone out at the time,” remembered Murray, “and everyone thought he was certain to beat me.
“I was a couple of minutes late for the weigh in, but nobody said anything. Because we were super-heavyweights, we didn’t have to make weight, so it didn’t matter and the fight went ahead.
“I boxed his head off. I gave him a real boxing lesson and then when I got back to the changing room I was told: ‘You were late for the weigh-in, so the result doesn’t stand, you’re not going through.’
“’It was on the back page of Boxing News. They said it was a disgrace.”
The professionals wanted Murray, but he said: “I wanted to win the ABAs first. Every year, I went in the ABAs thinking: ‘I will win this and then turn pro.’
“But really, I had too many breaks from boxing – and too many distractions.”
His late father, Alan, opened Snoopy’s nightclub, later renamed Silks, and he said: “Dad got us working there from an early age.”
Murray got the idea for a bar of his own while he was in the United States training. “Frank Tate trained at Stafford Town Amateur Boxing Club when he came to defend his [IBF] middleweight title against Tony Sibson (in 1988),” he remembered.
“I met him there and they invited me over to Houston to train with them. (Hall of Fame trainer) Jesse Reid was the coach and he had world champions Orlando Canizales, Calvin Grove and Freddie Pendleton in the gym.
“We would train in the morning, again in the afternoon and then go out in the evening.
“One night, I went out for a beer and saw a sports bar. That gave me an idea. The idea was to open a sports bar with multiple screens so you could watch sport at any time of the day. We were one of the first to open in this country.”
That was in 1998 and Murray has also invited former champions to Bar Sports to share their memories with dinner audiences.
“(Former WBC lightweight belt-holder) Jim Watt was the first,” said Murray, “and then there was Henry Cooper, John Conteh and more.”
More recently, Floyd Mayweather Jnr was a visitor. “He was late,” said Murray, who regards Ron Gray as a mentor and still meets him weekly. “But he was OK. It was the people he brought with him that were the problem. They were a nasty crowd.”
More enjoyable was the night Tyson Fury came to Bar Sport in 2018 – and let slip a secret.
“Tyson had just had his comeback fight and told us he was fighting Deontay Wilder in December,” said Murray. “We didn’t believe him!”