Today, the boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is 54 years old. I’m not a boxing fan. And watching the lighter weight classes box is particularly brutal to watch — I assume because the ratio of punching energy to body size is greater for the lighter fighters. Mancini was a lightweight, which actually puts him in the middle of the boxing classes: between 130 and 135 pounds — still pretty small. So I have never seen Mancini box, so far as I know; and I don’t want to.
The only reason that I’m highlighting him today is because of the Warren Zevon song, “Boom Boom Mancini.” It’s one of my favorite Zevon songs. It tells the story of Mancini’s match against Duk Koo Kim in 1982. Mancini won the fight with a knockout in the 14th round. But Kim died four days later from injuries he sustained in the fight. Kim’s mother killed herself four months later. The referee killed himself a bit short of a year later (I can’t say for certain it was related to the fight.)
Zevon’s song takes aim at the hypocrisy of the boxing establishment and the nation as a whole. But it also seems to present a defense of men jumping into the ring and beating each other to death. The truth of the situation is that Kim’s death resulted in positive changes in professional boxing. Even worse, the song presents Mancini as cold blooded in response to Kim’s death, when it was just the opposite. How could it not?
Happy birthday Ray Mancini!