Duk Koo Kim And Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini
Duk Koo Kim After Fight With Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini
Duk Koo Kim At Weigh In
On September 9th, 1982, there was a fight that changed the lives of everyone involved. I remember seeing it. I remember the excitement. And a NYT article about an upcoming documentary “The Good Son” talks about it.
Nineteen seconds into the 14th round, it was over.
It was brutally, mercifully, over.
In opposite corners, sat two fighters who grew up across the world from each other with very dissimilar backgrounds. Duk Koo Kim, the youngest son of a fisherman who lived in near poverty in South Korea in a tenuously built shack yards from the shore. His home and work-life were dysfunctional and life in general was bitter and cold for Duk Koo Kim. But he somehow found himself when he was inside the ring. On the other side, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, the son of a former world middleweight contender Lenny “Boom Boom” Mancini. Ray grew up in a middle class Youngstown, Ohio neighborhood and attracted attention from broadcasters looking for new boxing discovery.
Mancini was an aggressive brawler who crowded fighters, dipping low and weaving in and out of their defenses, pounding them with inside hooks and upper cuts and vicious hammering left hooks. He could take a punch and he could certainly deliver one. Mancini had been out boxed months before by Alexi Arguello, but in a one round slugfest in May 1982 Mancini knocked out Arturo Frias and was finally a world champion.
Kim won the Oriental and Pacific boxing championship and was on a collision course with Mancini. In comparison, Kim was also a brawler, although far less nuanced than Mancini, described by the New York Times as a fighter that didn’t so much out box opponents as he out endured them.
On September 9th, 1982, in Las Vegas the bell rang for Kim and Boom Boom. From bell to bell they threw leather toe to toe in the center of the ring. Mancini was more likely to back up and slip sideways but he didn’t give much more leeway than that. By the end of the 13th round, it was starting to look like Kim gave as good as he got and it might be split decision or a draw. Boom Boom buried over 40 hard unanswered shots into Kim’s sides and head. Kim went down and finally the referee stopped the match. At the starting bell of the 14th round, Mancini ran across the ring confronted Kim, stepped left and then torque a hook into Kim that sent him collapsing to the canvas. Another barrage and Kim was down again. Soon the referee caught Kim collapsing into his arms from the ropes.
A few days later, Kim died at the hospital.
Back in Korea, Kim’s wife was pregnant with his son: Jiwan.
A few years ago, Ray Mancini was the subject of a documentary. In the documentary, Ray was filmed meeting Young-Mi- Kim’s wife, and Jiwan, his son who never met his father.
It was amicable and respectful and amazing.
“The following June, mother and son arrived in Los Angeles with a camera crew filming a documentary based on the biography.
The visit begins with Mancini showing the photographs on his mantel: Ray with his kids, Ray with Ronald Reagan, Ray with Joe DiMaggio, and of course, the picture of his father — eye swollen shut, dried blood on his lips — after defeating Billy Marquart in 1941.
“To me,” Ray explains, “he’s beautiful.”
“Looks like you,” Jiwan says.
“After the fight with your father, yes.”
Now Young-mi produces a sheaf of snapshots from her purse, moving back in time: Jiwan in his army uniform, smiling in his school blazer, a boy and his mother at a picnic, Jiwan as a plump baby, then the engagement ceremony that preceded his birth. The beaming groom and his resplendent bride sit before a great banquet table. Young-mi wears a spray of flowers in her hair, her mother-in-law, in a white silk robe, at her side.
“Your father’s a good dresser,” Ray says.
“How do you feel?” Jiwan asks, haltingly.
Ray looks him up and down, this young man with the silk pocket square. His own boys are in shorts and T-shirts. “You did well for yourself,” he says.
The Mancini children join them for dinner. Nina is considering a career in restaurant management. The coming school year will see Leonardo enroll at Santa Barbara Community College and Ray-Ray make varsity basketball as a high school sophomore. They dine al fresco, the table set with bottles of Southpaw.
“That’s my wine,” Ray says proudly, recommending the linguine mare e monti with baby lobster.
“I love pasta,” Jiwan says.
Soon, Ray raises his glass. “I felt guilty about what happened for a long time,” he says. “I felt guilty because of your mother. I felt guilty that you never met your father.”
Young-mi dabs at her tears, but the confession continues even after the food arrives. “I didn’t know they carried him out on a stretcher,” Ray says. “It was a great fight, but after that there was nothing good about it. … I had no love for it anymore. I was already looking for a way out.”
“It was better,” Jiwan says. “For your health.”
Ray lifts his glass a final time.
“Thank you,” he says. “Thank you for coming to America.”
The discussion about the brutality of Boxing led to the elimination of fights beyond 12 rounds.
sources: NYT, www.tumblr.com/tagged/ray-mancini, Wiki