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When Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini lost it with Quentin Tarantino

Ray Mancini
Steve Bunce on a night with Mancini, Calzaghe and Woodhall

RAY “BOOM BOOM” MANCINI is like royalty in our game. Never forget that.

His series of fights in the early Eighties, fights watched by millions, fights that shaped a decade, live on in grainy colour. Then, a VHS of Mancini’s fights was hard currency.

He was a sensation at 20 when he fought for a world title for the first time, just 23 when he walked away for the first time. He looked like a pop star – that is the right description – from the Seventies and slugged like a veteran from the Fifties. His big fights are breathless events.

He was at Bar Sport in Cannock, sitting on a table with Joe Calzaghe, Enzo Maccarinelli and Richie Woodhall. The three knew they were in the presence of real greatness. Boom Boom, being the gentleman that he is, praised all three. And then he told stories, remembering the good, bad and tragic moments.

“Hopkins told me that they always watched my fights in the joint,” Mancini told me. It was a classic piece of Boom Boom.

“Marvin used to call me in camp and find out what I was doing; how many rounds, how many miles?” That was another.

Boom Boom: star, insider, world champion, gentleman.

“If championship fights finished after 12 rounds,” he said. “I would have beaten Arguello – I was 20, he was having his 17th world title fight.”

It finished in the 14th, which is a ridiculous theme in Mancini’s boxing life; two years after the Arguello world title fight, Mancini stopped Deuk-Koo Kim in the 14th. Kim died a few days later, Mancini went to a dark place in the aftermath and one of the sanctioning bodies reduced their title fights to 12 rounds. It was a high-profile death, the fight a brutal watch. Kim’s mother and the referee took their own lives in the next few months.
Mancini found a priest, went to Italy, had all the bad thoughts. He was told by Korean officials not to go to Kim’s funeral. He wanted to be there.

“It will always be a part of my life, but after that fight I lost my love for the sport. I had to find it again,” Mancini said, his voice a whisper, Woodhall gently coaxing the memories free.

Just 18 months later, Mancini lost his WBA lightweight title when he was stopped in the 14th by Livingstone Bramble. Boom Boom was up on two of the three cards. He was 22 at the time; he lost the rematch over 15 rounds by just one round on all three cards. Savage fights.

“Think about it – if 15 rounds are so bad, why was it not dropped straight away? I wanted 15 rounds to stay,” he added. It’s an opinion that divides people.

He was just 23 the night Bramble beat him the second time and Boom Boom then took a four-year break. Calzaghe could not believe how much Mancini achieved in such a short period. He had eight world title fights on free television, three finished in the 14th, one in death and another went the full 15.

“I wanted to keep the 15 rounds – that’s the real championship distance,” insisted Mancini.

Scott Murray’s loyal crowd listened, mostly in silence. At the end of the night, a lot of people were watching clips of Boom Boom on their phones. They knew they had shared boxing time with a real idol.

“Joe will know this,” Mancini said looking over at Calzaghe, whose chest swelled at the mention. “When you get hurt, you do two things: You cover up or you fight back. I fight back.” Calzaghe liked that.

And then Calzaghe told a cool story about getting hurt and fighting back. Mancini loved it; they were brothers inside their fight stories.

“When I fought Hopkins in Las Vegas, my son Connor was ringside on Enzo’s lap,” said Calzaghe. “When I got dropped in the first, the woman next to Enzo reached over and said to my son: ‘Your dad is going to be alright.’ It was Whitney Houston. I got up and I went to him.” Mancini liked that attitude.

And then Mancini closed the show and blessed us all with the type of tale that will be legend, a tale that required actions. It is making me chuckle just writing it. “So, I auditioned for the role of Mr Pink in Reservoir Dogs,” started Mancini. “I got called back to the fourth audition and that means you got it. Come on, four times. And it was great, I was great. I knew I had it.”

And, at this point Mancini stands. It’s electric. “So, I look over at Tarantino, he’s personally doing the audition, and he says to me: ‘Ray, you ain’t got it. I can’t give Mr. Pink to Ray Boom Boom Mancini. Nobody would believe it.’ And I look at this cocksucker and I’m wild.”

Mancini has now squared up, he’s ready to go. “And I say, if you can’t give it to me, why have you had me come back again and again – why didn’t you just tell me from the start? And he smiles and says: ‘I was waiting for you to fail.’ Now, I wanna kill this guy. I start screaming, I’m standing up, he is real scared, everybody is scared. I’m mad, real pissed off.”

The crowd loved that.

“And then I remembered that it is not a great idea to have people in Hollywood think you are mad. So, I sat down, I looked over and I said: You like that acting, I got you there. Anyway, my good friend Steve Buscemi got Mr Pink. He was great, but I would have also been great.” I believe he would.

That’s how you get a standing ovation in Bar Sport, my old son.

And we were blessed last week in mighty Cannock by a fighter who didn’t fight for the prize. Apologies to singer and lyricist Lucinda Williams, I know she would understand; Boom Boom would be her kind of man. And so would Joe, Enzo and Richie. Fighting men and gentlemen.

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